There was a time when Singeetam Srinivasa Rao gave us some of the most entertaining films that broke new grounds both in storytelling and technical departments. Films like Aditya 369, Pushpak (Pushpaka Vimanam in Telugu), Apoorva Sagodhararkal (Appu Raja) and Michael Madana Kamarajan (Michael Madana Kamaraju in Telugu) saw the coming together of smart screenplays, witty dialogues, merit-worthy performances and memorable music. Now, at the age of 82, when the filmmaker with unbeatable fervour comes up with a story that discusses surrogacy, it is natural to expect a social family drama that tugs at your heart strings while making observations about surrogacy. But as the drama unfolds, you are left looking for the missing magic of a once-brilliant filmmaker.
This story comes without the commercial trappings of an escapist mainstream film. The setting is rustic (shot in film as opposed to digital); in a village in Andhra Pradesh, a young mother Yashoda (Urmila Kanetkar) agrees to be a surrogate mother to a wealthy American, Lucy (Rachel).
Yashoda needs the money to be able to pay for the surgery of her physically-challenged daughter. Lucy develops cold feet when the doctors doubt if the unborn child will have deformities, only to return a few years later to claim her child.
Through the emotional drama, the film tells you how gullible rural women are exploited in the name of surrogacy. There’s also the turmoil of the surrogate mother torn between her love for the child and the realisation that she may not be able to provide material benefits.
There are moments where one sees the spark of the filmmaker, but on the whole, this is a film that could have done with a much better screenplay. It oscillates between loud, melodramatic episodes and insipid comic portions.
Urmila Kanetkar’s earnest performance and Rohini’s dialogues are the saving grace. The justification of the usage of Obama in the title also falls flat. Theatre and mime artist Sanjeev too tries to make a mark with his energetic performance. But all this is lost in the film that meanders aimlessly in the latter portions. The narrative becomes predictable and tiresome and you can’t help but be dismayed at the lost potential.
Cast: Urmila Kanetkar, Rachel, Esteban and Sanjeev
Direction: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Music: Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Plot: A child becomes a bone of contention between for a surrogate mother and the real mother.
Bottomline: A story that’s let down by a dreary screenplay.