The 2020 Kannada film Love Mocktail, produced and enacted by Krishna and Milana Nagaraj, followed the male protagonist’s quest to find true love in three stages of his life. Despite the contrived path, the story takes in the final portions, the cocktail of a few fun and heartwarming moments ensured that something worked in favour of the film. The Telugu adaptation, Gurthunda Seethakalam (Do you remember the winter?), directed by Nagasekhar and starring Satyadev, Tamannaah Bhatia, Priyadarshi, Megha Akash and Kavya Shetty retains the original story with a few tweaks. However, this Premam-meets- Geethanjali story gets progressively dull.
On a chilly winter morning, driving through the hills en route Mangaluru, Satyadev (Satyadev Kancharana) chances upon Divya (Megha Akash) and something that she does triggers a warm, bittersweet memory. Satyadev recounts his quest for love to the chatty, pani puri-loving Divya and the story harks back to his high school days and first love. The adolescent romance is innocent, awkward and is portrayed in a true-to-reality manner featuring four teenage actors.
Cast: Satyadev, Tamannaah Bhatia, Priyadarshi
Music: Kaala Bhairava
Satyadev’s journey of love, involving three women, is contrasted by that of his friend Prashant (Priyadarshi) who incidentally finds his soulmate in high school. Prashanth and Geetha (Harshini) are witnesses to the middle-class Satyadev falling in love with the well-heeled Amrutha (Kavya Shetty) in college and the two trying in vain to bridge the class divide.
The romance is captured primarily during misty winters with a predominantly blue colour palette, celebrating the chill but also alluding to the need for warm sunshine in the protagonist’s life. The college romance happens at a time when sending SMS burnt a hole in the pockets of college students and one had to wait till midnight for the mobile recharge plan to be effective. The throwback to the time of relatively less connectivity strikes a chord and some of the jokes involving Satyadev and Priyadarshi, too, are reminiscent of college campuses of the late 1990s and early 2000s. There is a fun sequence in which Amrutha girl tries to gauge if Satyadev is a decent guy on SMS chat. A girl in the cinema hall wryly remarked, ‘ ammayilu ilanti yedhavalake padatharu (girls always fall for such wastrels). Such running commentary in the cinema hall is sometimes more entertaining.
Gurthunda Seethakalam makes small but helpful changes in the manner in which it introduces Nidhi (Tamannaah Bhatia) even before the turbulent Satya-Amrutha romance ends. A chunk of the story revolves around Satyadev and Nidhi’s mature romance that takes time to bloom. The colour palette shifts from blues to sunshine yellows and Satyadev’s disbelief in finding someone who goes the extra mile to care for him is captured well.
Satyadev portrays the transition of different stages of his character with sincerity and makes his plight relatable. Priyadarshi and Harshini as the friend-couple who watch his transition are also convincing; in fact, they make some of the segments more interesting than the written material given to them. Tamannah, however, appears a tad distant and cold.
When the story slips into the blackhole of terminal illness, it gets cliched and boring rather than the moving, poignant romance saga it was intended to be. These done-to-death tropes in stories featuring a character battling terminal illness need a rethink. Winter, mist and a question of life and death in romance cannot make every film a Geethanjali.