Reviews

Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju: Savour these moments

It’s been a while since a Telugu filmmaker attempted an old-world romance. A romance where time nearly stands still; a beautifully mounted canvas with music that’s soothing enough to allow both the film’s lead characters and viewers to slow down and savour memorable moments.

Written and directed by Kranthi Madhav, Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju is not a new-age rom-com that holds a mirror to relationships that fizzle out at the turn of the season. It brings back old-fashioned romance that withstands both cynicism and the test of time. The film deals with three love stories in the life of the protagonist Raja Ram (Sharwanand). The narrative captures his bonding with his mother, his passion for competitive running and his romance with Nazira (Nithya Menen).

Raja Ram lives with his mother in a seaside house in Vizag. The mother teaches classical music to make ends meet and the college-going son is determined to make his mark in athletics in the national level. He finds joy in running bare feet on the beaches and resorts to barefoot running at the state level meet because he cannot afford a pair of spiked running shoes. There are moments where he stands on the sidewalks of a sports store, conversing with his dream pair of shoes. In another setting, this would have looked comical, but Kranthi and Sharwanand pull it off, keeping the humour alive without making the protagonist appear insane.

Help to buy the pair of shoes comes from Nazira, a burkha-clad girl in the college to whom Raja Ram has already lost his heart. The romance between Raja Ram and Nazira on campus and at his house, where she comes to learn music with a different identity, is beautifully handled with ample help from Gnanasekhar’s cinematography and Gopi Sundar’s music and background score. This is love at first sight and yet, the way it is told, keeps cynicism at arm’s length.

There are no villains in sight, at least not until that point, to suggest any opposition to the romance. Yet, destiny has its way and Nazira finds herself at a spot where she’s unwilling to change things.

A few years later, with many athletic records to his credit and luxuries that money can afford, Raja Ram feels a void. Far away in Malaysia, at the helm of a business enterprise, Nazriya is unable to move away from Raja Ram’s thoughts.

Can they bridge the gap? More than that, in the age of practical romances, one is likely to ask if these characters are for real. Kranthi poses these questions through a teenage daughter who wonders if Nazriya’s love borders on stupidity.

To draw a distant parallel, Raja Ram and Nazriya are similar to Veer and Zaara in their unflinching love. Unlike Yash Chopra’s Veer Zaara where the characters were thrown apart by politics, religion and nationality, Raja Ram and Nazriya have far fewer obstacles but find themselves isolated from their loved one.

If you love old-world romances, Malli Malli… is up your alley. On the flipside, the film’s snail pace gets grating at times and the contrived ending at the airport takes some sheen off the otherwise beautiful film. In a narrative like this, a lot lies on the shoulders of the actors. Sharwanand and Nithya Menen are remarkable, making you forget their star persona and immersing themselves in the world of Raja Ram and Nazriya. The supporting cast does a fine job as well.

Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju

Cast: Sharwanand, Nithya Menen

Direction: Kranthi Madhav

Music: Gopi Sundar

Bottom line: Old-world romance, served with care.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 9:30:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/malli-malli-idi-rani-roju-savour-these-moments/article6864993.ece

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