On the surface, Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (SVSC) is a delightful family drama with its celebration of family bonds, love and marriage laced with laughter and music. No, it’s not yet another regional version of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. Through this 159-minute film, director Srikanth Addala wants to leave his audience with a thought, wants them to reflect on their relationships and overlook skirmishes that can sour family bonds.

The story shifts between Relangi, Vijayawada and Hyderabad. The director doesn’t actually name some of his characters. So the amiable head of the family Prakash Raj is called ‘mavayya’ by the village folk, his eldest son Venkatesh is ‘Peddodu’ and the younger son Mahesh Babu is ‘Chinnodu’. Jayasudha as the mother, Rohini Hattangady as the grandmother and a younger sister are part of this close-knit family. Seetha (Anjali), orphaned in her childhood, grows up under the care of her mavayya and aunt Jayasudha. She breathes life into their home, spinning like a top to take care of each family member’s needs and has the ability to understand each of their mood swings in seconds.

This Relangi family has relatives in Vijayawada (headed by Rao Ramesh), who look down on them owing to their lack of wealth. Peddodu, given his short-temper and ego, loses his job and is unwilling to bow down to anyone. Chinnodu is gifted with sharp wit, which he uses to his advantage and tries to mask the bitterness he feels towards the Vijayawada family. He, too, is in search of a job. The unemployment of the two sons becomes a point of ridicule for the family.

It’s taken for granted that Peddodu will some day wed Seetha and Chinnodu, meanwhile, falls for Samantha, daughter of Rao Ramesh. The story of SVSC is not as simple as the heroes finding jobs and getting married to the respective women. There are many threads to the story. The first half, at times slow paced, unfolds each character and its temperament at a leisurely pace. The last hour pieces together the family drama and stresses the importance of facing life, with all its ups and down, with a smile. It’s here that Prakash Raj comes to the fore, warming your heart with one of his most nuanced and mature performances in a long time.

Yes, we know this is one of the biggest multi-starrers in recent times. But the surprise is Anjali. She is a powerhouse of talent and conveys so many emotions with the slightest twitch of her face. She delivers a smashing performance in a movie crowded with a number of characters.

Both Venkatesh and Mahesh Babu have set aside their larger-than-life images and given themselves to the director and his vision. Venkatesh shines when he shows his temper, mellows down for his brother and expresses his inability to cope with his unemployment, all without too many dialogues.

Mahesh Babu charms his way through the role and shows he can offer so much more in a restrained performance, breaking away from masala entertainers. The staccato conversations between the brothers, their moments of silence on the terrace, railway station and at the family dining table are the corner stones of their relationship. The director conveys volumes about the bond between brothers in these moments.

Jayasudha and Rohini Hattangady are a delight to watch. After Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu, this looks like a minuscule role for Samantha.

K.V. Guhan’s cinematography is top notch. The scene where the women make sunnundallu in the backyard with the reflection of the setting sun on their faces is a scene to behold. There are many such moments where Guhan speaks through his camera.

The songs and background score by Mickey J. Meyer are pleasing to the ears.

In this otherwise bright film, there are a few irritants: Was it necessary to show every young woman in the film falling for Mahesh Babu’s good looks? They trying to woo him and he snubbing them with his witty remarks gets boring after a point. Also, some dialogues make it sound like young women think of nothing beyond finding a good guy and getting married. These are minor issues. If you don’t read into the characters too much, SVSC is a joy ride.