So many Ramayans, is there something that remains to be said about the story of the mythological king and his rule? Yes thinks Bapu, the director, who gave us some of the better textured Telugu cinema stories. The result is an immersive mythological experience that is slow to take off. A little more than 15 minutes into the movie and the actors cease to be the point of interest and the story emerges as the king.
The king in blue walks with folded palms with his bejewelled wife and a beatific smile to be showered with yellow flower petals as he comes to take charge of his kingdom. As Lord Rama (Balakrishna) and Sita (Nayantara) step into the palace the grandness of the spectacle is breathtaking. The massive pillars, the three-storied balcony of the palace, the art work on the walls suggest a mighty empire. Never mind the extras on the periphery who appear like cardboard caricatures, the kingdom looks like a divine dispensation.
However, the smiles don't last as a washerman surrounded by donkeys berates his wife about fidelity for coming home late and the word reaches the king who makes the choice to send off his pregnant wife to wilderness. There Sita gives birth to twins under the care of Sage Valmiki (Nageswara Rao). Once the twins enter the framework of the story the movie gathers pace and there is a ‘willing suspension of disbelief'.
What holds the audience interest is the fact that despite being a mythological, the dialogues by Ramana are in a language that can be understood easily by everyone without it being grandhikam nor being too pedestrian. The music by Ilayaraja is another plus point with its soothing nature and even when the two small boys break into song and dance at a moment of divine joy it is not jarring. The graphics are well executed even though they are a tad-bit overdone like the scene where Lakshmana (Srikant) takes Sita in the chariot the forest, the trees look artificial, the grass looks digital as does the rising dust from the horse hooves.
The director Bapu should be applauded for re-inventing the mythological and using a glitzy starcast and getting an understated performance from all of them. Balakrishna, Nayantara, Nageswara Rao, Srikant and the other actors do their parts and live the roles without trying to outshine the plotline.
Men can bring their studied expression, the women their handkerchiefs and the kids their stomping feet.
Sri Rama Rajyam
Cast: Nageswara Rao, Balakrishna, Nayantara, Srikanth, K.R. Vijaya
Bottomline: The director turns the audience into sentimental putty.