When the box office is flooded with mass-entertainers and no-brainers, it is natural to expect a little more from a film like Andala Rakshasi. These high expectations make the film plummet. As the first half of the film progresses, you would be excused for thinking you are watching a Mani Ratnam film but that’s mostly got to do with the colours of the film than the content. Reminiscent of romantic classics like Mouna Ragam and Gitanjali, Andala Rakshasi builds up hope only to crush it in the end because it comes across as an imitation — in colours, locales, endings and even in costumes.

It’s a twisted, unbelievable tale of love. The fleeting romances are alluring, the easy music and deep lyrics are more than comforting, but in between the fog and rains of Ooty, you know there is something amiss in Andala Rakshasi’s silences.

Set during the years 1991 and 1992, the story revolves around Surya (Naveen), Gowtham (Rahul Ravindran) and Midhuna (Lavanya). Their love triangle zig-zags through a narrative that unfolds a multitude of characters and twists. Gowtham falls in love with Midhuna the minute he sees her, because of the childlike quality she exudes. Midhuna however falls in love with Surya, after much persuasion and chasing by the artist and part-time goon. Later she meets with a near-fatal accident giving Gowtham an opportunity to show his love. He takes care of her and wants to marry her. Absent for most part of the film, Surya is assumed to be dead. It is later revealed through Surya’s flashback that Midhuna’s father had persuaded him to leave her, on Gowtham’s father’s request, who promises to give her the best possible healthcare. The film ends in mess, without a reasonable explanation.

Newcomers Naveen, Rahul and Lavanya impress. Hanu Raghavapudi’s direction is excellent too. But for the editing, the film is fresh even at the risk of being gloomy.

Cinematic brilliances flash through in between. Like the scene between Midhuna and a blind couple, where she asks him if love can be quantified. The blind man simply says, “if it’s love, it’s beyond the power of vision” as he reaches out to hold his wife’s hand and against the warm glow of the street lights, two hands search for one another. This scene alone redeems the entire film with its summary of love.

Love, perhaps loses its charm without conflict and crises. Andala Rakshasi seeks to track the cycle of falling in love, waiting for love, heartbreak and healing in the form of forgetting. We are so used to seeing love sunny side up that sometimes we forget the torment it causes to those involved. While love can cause your heart to flutter and feel weightless, it can also stab and make your heart pine and yearn. These essential elements of love are all explored in the film, perhaps at the risk of intellectualising a tad too much and alienating the audience. If you’re a romantic and believe in the grand idea of love, it might do you some good to watch this film.

ANDALA RAKSHASI

Genre: Drama-tragedy

Cast: Naveen, Rahul Ravindran, Lavanya

Director: Hanu Raghavapudi

Producers: S. S. Rajamouli and Sai Korrapati

Plot: A love triangle that explores the darker realms of loving and being loved

Bottomline: What could have remained as a beautiful ode to Mani Ratnam’s school of filmmaking is held back by an excessive gloom that reigns throughout