Genre Period drama
Director Sharada Ramanathan
Cast Manoj K.Jayan, Aditi Rao Hydari, Manju Bhargavi
Storyline A dancer from the devadasi community refuses to be cowed down by society and subjugated by her man
Bottomline Many more pluses than minuses
A whole lot of worthy technicians, many of them for the first time, come together for Sringaram. A period drama in which much attention has been paid to detail, this Golden Square Films’ production has well-etched characters and a cast that delivers. Obviously a lot of research has gone into its making. And leading the team on an impressive march in her debut is director Sharada Ramanathan. But Sringaram is not completely free of glitches. Only, the pluses outshine them.
Set in the 1950s, the story, for the most part, moves back to the 1920s. Playing both the heroine Madhura and her daughter Varshini is the svelte Aditi Rao Hydari. Her telling eyes and dancing prowess make her an apt choice. Gentle and firm, strong and vulnerable all at once, the character is well-conceived. Madhura, a devadasi, is a feminist who will not take slights lying down. Under the control of the mirasdar Sukumar, she refuses to be a scapegoat in his avarice for power and walks out to take on the world on her own terms. Kama (Hamsa Moily) is the aspiring companion of the protagonist who soon realises her limitations and joins Madhura.
A perfect foil to the tenacious Madhura is Manoj K. Jayan who plays Sukumar. The actor scores with his underplay. Manju Bhargavi is a surprise — emotions come easy to the veteran. As the voiceless temple priest aware of the rights and wrongs around him, Y. Gee. Mahendra reveals his adeptness in serious roles. In a soft character that suits his face, is Bharat Kalyan (Manisundaram), who gets both his diction and demeanour right. And making full use of the scope of his role is Shashikumar (watchman Kasi). Strangely it takes nearly two decades for Manisundaram and Varshini to come to their native place and meet their folks! Madhura’s mother Ponnammal (Manju Bhargavi) shows little feeling for her daughter who has left her. But when Kama does the same, she pleads with her! And why does the colloquial dialogue at times get chaste? The discrepancy is a distraction. All the same full marks for having ensured perfection in lip sync. At no point do the voices seem dubbed. Madhura and Kama are tryingly slow in dialogue delivery. Sringaram’s composer Lalgudi Jayaraman excels in re-recording, using even a simple ‘sarali varisai’ poignantly and highlighting one instrument at a time (mridangam, nadhaswaram, veena etc.). The musician brings in equally captivating periods of silence. (Lakshminarayanan’s sound design warrants mention here.) Classical pieces such as Ninaivaal are appealing. However, his rustic numbers are humdrum.
Madhu Ambat’s lighting is specially rewarding — his angles too! Enhancing the effect is Thota Tharani’s art. None can overlook the exquisite costume (Rukmini Krishnan).
Saroj Khan’s choreography is an impressive blend of the traditional and modern. Sreekar Prasad’s scissors could have pruned certain sequences. Sringaram is Indira Soundararajan’s first screenplay. Forget the awards — Sringaram is an aesthetic showcase of first time maker Sharada Ramanathan’s potential. It’s not often that you hear applause at the end of a press screening. This time you did.