Monday, January 29, 2007
The boat starts its journey from the banks of the river in the dawn of the day. The shining pieces of the early sunlight reflecting brilliantly on the little waves, shows the way. The breeze from the surface carries the coolness to the shores calming the land beyond. A perfect dawn, a perfect day, and a perfect start to the trip, against the playful current that rises up, falls down and rises again.
baaru saeyi vaalugaa
bratuku teruvu edureetaegaa
Godavari - the river that played muse to aandhra "panchama vaedam"; the river that played host to bhadragiri "Sri Rama paadam"; the river that showed many their "bratuku baaTa"; the river whose sounds have indeed become the region's "bratuku paaTa"; Moving slowly along the river, the boat passes by the white sand dunes, where "rellu gaDDi" sways their heavy heads to the silent tunes of the waves, akin to the "vari kanki" in the distant field.
The rains bring along the silt and the sediment from the highlands. The river changes its hue from clear to red in an instant. Is the red the vermillion on her forehead? Or is it the redness from the "chiru alaka" on Seeta devi's cheeks? "panchavaTi" providing the peace and the quietness, this magical place is indeed the resting place of the Divine Couple, that wanted to find in each other, the much needed solace. Godavari - "daevuniki saitam saeda teerchae daevaeri"
maa rammayya bhOgam
ikkaDa nadi vooraegimpulO
paDava meeda laaga
prabhuvu taanu kaadaa
As the river moves a little further up, "pApi konDalu" proudly stand on either side, observing all the action from high atop. The clear river snakes alongside the dark hills, greeting it as a dear old friend who has stood tall by its side all this time, as a great testament to eternal friendship. "konDala maTTini kaDigaesi, nalupu niganigalu virichaesi, koTTukuni pOvu gOdAri, kashTAla neeDaerchu rahadaari"
ala pApi konDalA
navvu tanaku raagaa
oogindilae chaelO vari
maa seemakae cheenAmbari
A new genre has taken shape here. It breathed a new life just now. It is deeply seated in the values of typical middle class families – the fun and the frustrations, the joys that are spread around and sorrows that lurk around. The characters cannot solve their problems with a magic wand. And the stories end without a big bang. It mixes the emotions of every day life and it revels in the characters' little delights. This is an almost lost genre discovered all over again. During much of the 70s, Hindi filmdom was replete with movies in this genre and Basu Chatterjee was the helm taking these path breaking movies to a new level. Chitchor, Choti Choti Baatein, Ranji Gandha, Chameli Ki Shaadi, Choti Si Baat and many such stood proud on this new ground entertaining with not only their simplicity but also with their great sensibilities. Good comedies they were, good love stories they were, every day characters they were and every day situations they most certainly were. It was like transporting the audience into the situation and playing out the movie in exactly the same way any member in the normal audience would behave. They do not take dramatic licenses, in fact, they do not have dramatic licenses because they never would play out as a drama. At the thick of all the things that surround the hero and the heroine was their inability to profess their love to each other and the entire movie is about them trying to navigate through everything that life throws at them, and finally reaching that place when all the conflicts are resolved, all the misunderstandings are cleared and all is well with the world, with them right in the middle. Godavari, the benevolent host it is, re-ushered the genre with a smile on its lips and warmth in its eyes.
Before Chatterjee's movies of the 70s, Mullapoodi Venkaratamana's (literary) works in the 60s bore this exact stamp. Godavari, in its way of placing the main characters right in the middle of a horde of others, each with their own agenda and each with their own motivations, ultimately working towards the common cause of bringing the hero and the heroine together, resembles Mullapoodi's "Janata Express", a story that finds love in a "naalugiLLa chaaviDi" buzzing with people and activity, more than his other obvious boat-crowd work "Andaala Ramudu". That both Andaala Ramudu and Godavari operate almost entirely on a boat, most of the action happens during a voyage from Rajamundry to Bhadrachalam, both start off with a minor tiff between the lead characters are the only points of inspiration that Sekhar draws from Andaala Ramudu and the rest could safely be said as purely original. (Having a sharp-tongued, good-hearted pullaTTu woman character was a little tip of the hat to the genius of Mullapoodi that kick started this genre in telugu ("saavaalammaa, appu istaavaa aruvu istaavaa?", "aruvu chastae ivvanu", "aitae appae peTTu" - the conversation between saavaalamma, the pullaTTu woman, and appaa rao, the eternal seeker of the holy grail - appu, in Andaala Ramudu). Sekhar Kammula has accidentally stumbled upon the "Janata Express" style of operating and shuffling of the characters around, where everything from little things, like a game of "Treasure Hunt", to huge (and sometimes unnecessary) events, like a little factionism, work copiously at bringing the lead couple together. Love story is the reason for any plot point and love story is even the sole reason for the boat (and not the other way around).
Rajamundry raevu gaTTlu, chirugu baTTala tera chaapalu, paTTiseema isuka tennelu, paeranTaala palli jala paataalu, nalupu ettula paapi konDalu, dandakaaraNyam daTTani cheTTlu - Godavari captures the essence of this rich land quite brilliantly - the greenery of the foliage around vying with the green hue of Godavari right after the monsoons, the whiteness of the dunes of the little islands that meet and greet along the river, the brilliant contrast in the varying colors of the scenery - Vijay Kumar's camera captures quite sumptuously treating the eyes to a visual feast with all the little things that describe the area and all the broad strokes that define the region - the nascent reds of the early sunrises and the golden yellows of the late sunsets, the coolness of the entire region right after a good rainfall and moisture laden muggy times during the sun baked days. Radhakrishnan's pleasant tunes prodding the story along (particuarly the different variations of "raama chakkani seetaki", which seems to find great inspirations in "humko mankee Shaktee de" from Guddi and "bekas pe karam keejiye" from Mughal-E-Azam) and Veturi's amazing words ably supporting the different moods and expressions, Godavari takes the audience back to the era when times were lesiure and love was all there was to work for, words were soft and actions never spoke louder than words, people were sensible and life was simple and slow paced - all on an unforgettable boat ride that lingers on for a long time. With the only minor quibble being there still was lot more of Godavari left unexplored, welcome to the new genre!