'Sundari' is one of the box-office releases this Friday. Here is our review of the Poorna-starrer.
Sundari (Poorna) gets married to Prabhu (Arjun Ambati), an orphan who falls in love with her at first sight. Since she is a villager, Sundari takes time to adjust to the lifestyle in Hyderabad. Meanwhile, a neighbour, Prabhu's colleague and a friend (Rakendu Mouli as Ritesh) start lusting her. It's also when Prabhu loses his job. What consequences does Prabhu losing the job have on him and his wife? What is the "ultimate decision" that Poorna takes in the course of the film? Answers to these questions are found in the second half.
Poorna's presence throughout the film doesn't help elevate the proceedings. She doesn't show variation, thanks to her bland characterization. After films like 'Power Play', she has played a rather outdated character with melodramatic toppings. Arjun Ambati's dubbing is off and his expressions are excessive at times. Rakendu Mouli behaves like how Bharath, the child artist of 'Dookudu' fame, has started behaving of late in films like 'ABCD'. Chartapathi Sekhar being cast as an astrologer is a dead giveaway. Appaji as Sundari's father is funnily unconcerned about his daughter's plight.
Suresh Bobbili's background music takes an inexplicable turn in the second half. The BGM fails to make us empathize with the ordeal of the central character. The inappropriate music was driven by the wrong-headed screenplay. It should have given rise to tension instead of seeming to trivialize things. The cinematography is passable. The art direction is elementary.
In his pre-release interview, Arjun Ambati, who has played Poorna's husband in the movie, revealed that his character comes with negative shades. Considering the story arc, it was ill-advised on his part to make the revelation. In the initial scenes, he comes across as a 'Swathi Muthyam' guy possessed by a really cheap ghost. By and by, we realize that there is more to it than meets the eye but we can't care less. All that we see in the story is a series of sob scenes that were written either to titillate the audience or subject us to Dasari-era tropes.
Sri Sudha plays Sundari's neighbour, who advises her to consummate her marriage at the earliest because that alone can make her feel comfortable as a wife. Just as Sundari starts shedding her fear of sex, she is thrown into the abyss. The way the tumult in her life is narrated leaves much to be desired. She barely manages to talk. She struggles to smile even on good days. Director Kalyanji Gogana was probably inspired by screenplays that paraded distressed souls in anti-dowry films made in the 1980s.
Sundari's characterization is the cardinal sin that the film commits. Even after she goes through an ordeal and has to stake her integrity because of the wretched state she finds herself in, we don't feel for her. Reason? She has always looked like a comprehensively depressed soul right from the first reel.
There comes a twist in the second half. In hindsight, the film would have worked better had it been made as a romantic thriller rather than a female-centric melodrama.
'Sundari' parades antiquated tropes in telling the story of an exploited woman. Its story-telling is stuck in a time warp.