‘Virata Parvam’ movie review: Sai Pallavi shines in this adventurous romance

Venu Udugula attempts a poetic romance saga inspired by true incidents, helped hugely by a talented ensemble cast, music composer and cinematographers

June 17, 2022 11:02 am | Updated 11:26 am IST

Sai Pallavi and Rana Daggubati in the period romance drama

Sai Pallavi and Rana Daggubati in the period romance drama

Towards the end of the Telugu film Virata Parvam, the news clippings pertaining to Sarala, who inspired Sai Pallavi’s character Vennela, left me both intrigued and moved. I wondered how much of the last 20 minutes were a factual retelling of events that took place in Warangal in 1992. We may not know the extent of dramatisation for the film, but what lingers is the plight of Vennela whose love knows no reason but is powerful enough to move a few hardened men and women in the jungles to tears. The world that writer-director Venu Udugula presents is far removed from that of the pragmatic modern day romances. 

The film’s male protagonist, Ravanna alias Aranya (Rana Daggubati), is a poet. There is poetry in how cinematographers Dani Sanchez-Lopez and Divakar Mani play with light and shade to present Vennela’s journey, with a painting-like quality but never at the cost of romanticising the stark surroundings. Suresh Bobbili’s music is haunting and achingly melodious where necessary. Some of the dialogues, lyrics and situations, too, have a poetic quality to them. Take the reason why Vennela is named so and the dramatic events that unfold during her birth. When Vennela’s voiceover states that a war that consumes many in its wake is the one that birthed her, it rings true.

Venu narrates the journey of the naive yet fiercely stubborn Vennela; the wonderful Sai Pallavi who enacts the part and Rana supporting the vision as an actor and producer make the effort worthwhile.

A childhood incident indicates how stubborn Vennela can be. We may or may not buy that point of view immediately but the scenes thereafter build on it.

Virata Parvam
Cast: Sai Pallavi, Rana Daggubati, Nandita Das
Direction: Venu Udugula
Music: Suresh Bobbili

When Vennela draws a heart symbol over a sickle painted on a wall or looks lovingly at the sickle shadow on a wall, it gives away how besotted she is becoming with the writings of Ravanna. It befits the film’s tagline – revolution is an act of love.

The film is a throwback to the 1990s and has been shot in widescreen format (1.85:1 aspect ratio) to recreate the look of the decade. Even if you don’t pay attention to such technical details, the film has enough to draw you in.

Sai Pallavi enacts Vennela with a mix of innocence and strength, making us shudder each time she is caught in a tough situation. A part of me wished she would just return home to safety. But Vennela is cut from a different cloth. Some of the characters that surround her are also unconventional. Easwari Rao is convincing as the mother who is worried for her daughter. Sai Chand plays an atypical father, an Oggu Katha artiste who voices what the art form means to him and why he can understand his daughter’s point of view. A small gesture from Rahul Ramakrishna at this point is funny and mirrors the audience reaction.

In contrast to Vennela who wears her heart on her sleeve is the impermeable Ravanna. He has learnt to camouflage his emotions just as he has blended into the jungle, using foliage as a cover for his guerilla war. Rana plays Ravanna with ease (Incidentally, this is his third consecutive film set in a forest), channeling the inner Leader in him. 

The smaller stories of the other characters unfold gradually and put things in perspective – Raghu (Naveen Chandra)’s anger and bitterness, Bharathakka’s (Priyamani) been-there-seen-that demeanour and Shakuntala’s (Nandita Das) worldly-wise view of the rebellion – and the actors playing these parts are effective. In a way, Nandita’s character can be perceived as an evolution from her role in Mani Ratnam’s Kannathil Muthamittal 

The segment involving Ravanna and his mother (Zareena Wahab) offers a glimpse into what happens when the steely exterior of a rebel gives way to soak in normal human relationships.  

The narrative juxtaposes Vennela’s journey of love with tense face-offs between the police and the Naxals, replete with the politics of covert operations, keeping us invested in the proceedings.

There are times when Virata Parvam falls short, but mostly, it manages to be a moving emotional story. The little details work like a charm. The first couple of times Vennela utters ‘laal salaam’ or is being trained to fight, notice the hint of a smile and how adoringly she eyes Ravanna, conveying the innocence of a girl who may not be fully aware of the hardships ahead. Sai Pallavi owns the story of Vennela and makes us root for her.  Also, watch out for a scene where Shakuntala asks Vennela about her decision and how the camera beautifully frames the two actors.

Like Vennela, Virata Parvam takes a road less travelled for Telugu cinema and deserves appreciation, though it isn’t an epic love story.

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