Director: Sai Krishna Enreddy
Cast: Divya Sripada, Chandni Rao, Srividya Maharshi, Sunil
There is a nugget of an interesting idea in Sai Krishna Enreddy’s Heads And Tales. The director sets up God (or Chief as he’s called here) as the writer of our destinies. This isn’t a new idea at all, but there’s a twist: in the opening scene, Chief tells a reporter that he couldn’t be bothered to come up with a truly unique destiny for each person. So, to save some effort, he multiples a story into a hundred screenplays – each person gets one. And here’s the best part of the conceit: The lives of people who share the same story are somehow interlinked, even if they didn’t know each other. With a premise like that, you’d think Heads And Tales would go on to show exactly how interconnected destiny worked. But all that philosophizing was just a weak pretext for a quirky opening scene featuring Sunil.
Little of what happens in the rest of the film has anything to do with the preamble. Heads And Tales is about three young women with their own problems: Manga (Divya Sripada) is a constable with an alcoholic husband, Shruthi (Chandni Rao) has family and boyfriend problems, and Anisha (Srividya Maharshi), an actor, has an abusive fiancé. You vaguely see how their stories are similar: Men are the primary causes of their problems. But beyond that, it’s hard to work out what God means when he says that the lives of Manga, Shruthi and Anisha have similar stories but different screenplays.
In scenes between Manga and Anisha, we do see traces of what the film could have been. Manga is a constable staying for the night with Anisha to protect her from the abusive fiancé. Within a night, they strike up a relationship that feels far more real than the romantic relationships, both healthy and problematic, portrayed in the film. That’s because Manga is the only character who’s fleshed out: She isn’t privileged, works in a male-dominated police force and has money problems. She’s also unassumingly stoic about it all. She’s a perfect counterpoint to the sophisticated and affluent Anisha. And at the end of the film, they do unexpectedly help each other solve their problems. But the film doesn’t take it far enough.
To suggest surprising links between seemingly disconnected people, it needed to introduce more characters and resolve their problems in surprising ways for us to feel a sense of awe about how destiny works. But apart from Manga and Anisha, other characters are only as detailed as the narrative function they need to serve. For example, Manga’s alcoholic husband randomly turns out to have a heart of gold just to tie up a plot point for Anisha. We feel cheated because the film led us to believe he was a hopeless alcoholic, only to get us to empathize with Manga. Later, it uses him for a different narrative purpose by changing his personality randomly. As we move through scene after arbitrary scene, a nagging thought keeps asking how any of this is a dramatic exposition of the idea about how God draws together strangers with similar stories.
After the first scene, the scattershot film only manages to become an ordinary drama about two very different strangers helping each other solve their problems. While Anisha and Manga get disproportionate screen time, Shruthi’s story feels like a truncated afterthought with only vague links to Manga and Anisha. This is not the story that God promised. But God himself never says anything interesting after his introduction. He only says banal things like our emotions are like boxes that can be opened only by specific people, and humans should never try to know the future. It’s tricky to work out what God or the film is really trying to say, because never mind being greater than the sum of its parts, the parts in Heads And Tales don’t even hang together.