Director: Aditya Mandala
Cast: Siddhu, Seerat Kapoor
Maa Vintha Gadha Vinuma, out now on Aha, is the dictionary definition of an urban romance. It is set in Hyderabad, all of its characters are free to switch between Telugu and English, female characters smoke without it being a big deal and the film’s protagonist is allowed to ‘dudebro’ with his dad over a couple of beers. It is also an engineering college film for the most part. From Kirik Party in Kannada, Premam in Malayalam to half a dozen films made by Gautham Menon, the setting of Maa Vintha Gadha Vinuma (MVGV) is almost too familiar.
In fact, GVM’s films seem to be a major influence on it’s director Aditya Mandala and it’s writer/lead actor Siddhu. Like the director’s films, MVGV too uses the protagonist’s voiceovers to take us back to this engineering college setting. The way silences fill up long conversational scenes (often set in cars) and the career-oriented problems the leads have to deal with, reminds one of Neethaane En Pon Vasantham (Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu).
The film even acknowledges this to an extent. In an early scene, a cop jokes that he’s not a hardworking officer like the one Victory Venkatesh played in GVM’s Garshana. Another couple in the film go by names like Karthik (Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya/Ye Maaya Chesave) and Meghna (Vaaranam Aayiram/Suriya, Son Of Krishnan). If you want to get a little obsessive, a cafe where an important scene takes place is called ‘Aaromale’. But most weirdly, it’s the ‘design aesthetics’ of the heroine Vineetha (Seerat Kapoor) that’s most like a ‘wannabe’ GVM heroine.
The use of a term as vague as ‘design aesthetics’ to describe a lead character is intentional, because Vineetha is arguably the biggest problem with MVGV. It’s not bad casting. It’s not entirely bad writing either. It’s just that Vineetha never appears to be a living, breathing human being. The makers seem to be going for unapproachable, but she seems distant at best. In their obsession to design a character that looks a certain way, it’s as though they forgot to give Vineetha a beating heart.
A major reason for this is Seerat’s OTT makeup. Even in places as everyday, as classrooms and canteens, she appears to be right out of a Youtube makeup tutorial. And that’s a shame because it’s really a very conversational kind of a film. When the film’s best scenes are meant to be explosive dialogues between Sidhu (a very likeable Siddhu, with a lot of lovely man-child moments) and Vineetha, it becomes really counter-productive when we’re distracted by the symmetric mastery of her eyelashes.
This wouldn’t have been such a major issue if the film was plot driven. But MVGV is a film where nothing much happens. Both halves of the film play out in the form of two extended flashbacks, with Sidhu explaining the reasons behind his disturbed state of mind to a random, although likeable police officer. If you keep aside an angle about a wedding declaration gone wrong, there’s nothing new either. Which means that it needed to rely heavily on performances and the overall mood of the scenes to keep things moving. Except for Sidhu’s (and the police officer), none of the performances make an impact, with one actor being easily interchangeable with any other. The mood too, with cafes, colleges, cars and bars, give us a sense of déjà vu, with a pattern in lighting (most of the day scenes feel like it’s 7 AM) and music (classical fusion) that’s reminiscent of several other films.
Even interesting details, like how Vineetha is Tamil, her possessive best friend, and a complicated businesswoman character, never amount to anything expect as embellishments to save hollow scenes. Aside from a few hilarious bits towards the end, the film struggles to maintain even a basic level of engagement, which should have been easy for a light romance.
MVGV wants to be many things, including a commentary on how judgemental people are on social media and a coming-of-age story of man-child. But it ends up feeling superficial, with a cover that’s much better than the book.