Language: Telugu

Cast: Kajal Aggarwal, Sai Srinivas Bellamkonda

Director: Teja

Sita. A film that’s mighty proud of the irony it has created for itself—by naming a character, who is money-minded and headstrong, after someone who stands for anything but—that it doesn’t care how odd it feels to watch a woman say her name over and over again like a child who has learnt to say ‘fuck’ for the first time. Neither does it waste time to find new ways to depict its hero’s strength [spoiler: it’s not acting]—he just keeps breaking doors to show what he is capable of. It doesn’t stop there. It then chooses to put all its creative energy and write a villain who is more complex and entertaining than most lead characters.

The film gets its story from sprucing up the Rain Man and turning it into a story that fits “our sensibilities”—watching men and women laugh at domestic violence jokes is a frequent occurrence, but it still stings. Sita, a woman on a deadline with a lusty man (Basava Raju) on her tail, needs money and realises that her inheritance is tied up to her marrying her bava, Ram. He lives in a Buddhist temple in Bhutan, as Sita’s father leaves him there fearing his wife’s wrath. Ram is so out of touch with the world that he thinks it’s okay to say ‘oh oh’ and touch a woman without her consent. Even the bad guy in the film knows better. He is “pure” and Sita isn’t. The rest of the film is about Sita realising that her redemption lies in Ram’s hand, or rather at his feet.

Teja, the film’s director, has always been a filmmaker with extreme takes, who then uses one-note characters and broad strokes to support them. Sita is no different. It creates a strong, business- minded woman who loves money more than people—something we are not told why, but I think it the blame inevitably goes to the mother—and calls her Sita. Not because it suits her, no. Rather there is already a Ram born and she has to grow up to marry him. She is emotionally butchered and cornered until she accepts that fate and moulds herself to fit the person she is named after. But for all its flaws, his films always had coherent scripts and clearly drawn plot points, Sita lacks them too. An elaborate car stunt is embedded into the screenplay just so they can do a little wordplay with the word Hyatt. And the unnecessary CGI shots, and the excessively violent and stretched climax makes things worse.

If that’s not enough, the film’s need to elevate the “hero” turns the second-half into a mess that’s hard to come back from. A shame considering how watchable it was when it stays on Sita and her ruthlessness. Sirsha Ray’s cinematography is wasted on a film like this, except for that one shot near the end in Basava Raju’s bedroom. Anup’s music does nothing to the film and I don’t think its solely his fault either. The beats and breaks in a commercial cinema is an art in itself and the film never really gets the groove going for more than a minute. Even though Bithiri Sathi tries his best to keep it fun and light, there is only so much he can do.

Speaking of performances, Kajal becomes an actor when she works with Teja. The Sita she brings to the screen maybe one-dimensional, but that’s not on her. She does her best to portray an apathetic individual who only cares about her assistant’s fitness when she realises that he is too fat to sit together with in an auto-rickshaw—Abhinav is adequate in this role. Srinivas, on the other hand, doesn’t do it for me. Even though his clueless acting seems fitting for a character that’s supposed to look perpetually puzzled, I was never convinced by it. Sonu Sood’s Basava Raju is an evil man and he knows it, but he tries his best to deny it so he can live a life where he is the hero. He thinks he is good because he chooses to clean his hand before slapping his wife. It’s repulsive, but in the hands of a man who knows what he is doing the performance plays out enjoyably.

Sita, the character, has her moments—she is given a chance to shield her man from the villian, she even gets a slo-mo shot where she kicks a stuntman in his chest. Sita, the film, has its moments too —Bharani’s Jaya Babu making fun of Basava’s ignorance and amorality are fun and refreshing to watch. But none of this means anything if you are going to have a man forcefully enter a bathroom while a woman is bathing and call it humour. If a film about a businesswoman finds its conflict in two men—one who lusts after her and one who is chosen for her by her father when she’s 10— instead of taking one of the more interesting routes it would’ve chosen to take if it’s about a man, then what is the point. If your idea of a bad woman is someone who is modern, ambitious and independent, then don’t make a film about one.

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