Malli Raava is a love story that almost feels like an antithesis to the existing films in the genre. It doesn’t have much to say and it doesn’t reinvent the wheel either to tell its story. And writer-director Gowtam Tinnanuri strips the story to its bare essentials to narrate what seems like the most obvious progression of a young couple’s love story and their attempts to express their love for each other.
There’s no drama and most of the times, things are left unsaid with characters preferring to gulp down their emotion than to confront others. As banal as it might seem, by the time you understand what the characters are looking for in their lives, it strikes you that the film in fact is an ode to love and longing. This moment of epiphany makes a huge difference and it all begins to make sense, because few memories never fade away.
There are a series of flashbacks since both the lead characters, Karthik (Sumanth) and Anjali (Aakanksha Singh) delve into their memories to tell us how they first met, what made them fall in love with each other, and more importantly, why do they like each other so much. She loves the way he looks at her and she confesses, “For the first time in my life, I felt important to someone. He made me feel like a woman. I can never forget the way he looks at me.”
And for Karthik, it’s love at first sight even though he’s barely 14. He likes being with her and there’s no other motive. Years later, when they finally meet once again, she asks him if he remembered her after she left him back in 1999, and Karthik recounts an incident which brings tears to her eyes. She realises that nothing has changed and the glint in his eyes is in tact.
The narrative juggles between three different timelines – 1999, 2012, 2017. Karthik and Anjali first meet each other in Rajole in 1999, and 13 years later, Anjali comes to the same company where Karthik and his childhood buddy Subramanyam (Abhinav) work, and later, in 2017, they meet again. Since both Karthik and Anjali contemplate what went wrong in their lives, they remember minute details from their childhood. For instance, the first time Anjali holds Karthik’s hand, or that moment when Karthik gifts Anjali a toy, and that precise moment when Karthik confesses his love for Anjali.
When Anjali comes back into his life, Karthik is a happy-go-lucky guy; however, he acknowledges that his world has always revolved around Anjali. “Nuvvu pakkana unte santosha padadam, nuvvu lennappudu baadha padadam alavaatu aipoyindhi Anjali (I’m used to being happy when you are around, and be sad when you aren’t, Anjali),” he tells her.
We understand the emotion that keeps haunting him, but what frustrated me the most while watching the film was how randomly the narrative jumps from one timeline to another. Just when you think that you have got a hang of the characters and their insecurities, Gowtam Tinnanuri shifts our attention to another detail in their lives which feels jarring in the first half.
However, in hindsight, it all adds up in the end. Every ‘weak’ moment in the first half feels like an intentional diversion to create a memory in the minds of the viewers and it’s the weight of these memories that makes the second half quite engaging. The characters still don’t get a chance to confront each other; however, you begin to empathise both of them instantly. Sometimes, the toughest thing to do is to not say anything at all.
If Malli Raava was a software programme, then it gives the same result that every other programme is supposed to give. The beauty, however, lies in its documentation. Gowtam Tinnanuri wants us to savour every moment in the characters’ lives, and so, every segment of their lives is given plenty of importance. The music too feels like it’s been designed to give you that extra moment to let the emotion linger a bit longer. Music composer Shravan leaves a long-lasting impression with his work in the film and the background score complements that happens in the story.
The film is easily Sumanth’s best in a long time and his nuanced performance makes you wonder why hasn’t he done something like this in all these years. Aakanksha Singh, who played Anjali, is wonderful and she emotes with ease. There’s a scene in the second half where she breaks down in the hospital after being unable to speak her heart out. It barely lasts for five seconds, but it’s so beautifully done that it feels quite natural. Abhinav, who played Sumanth’s friend, does a great job in his role.
For a film which doesn’t really have much to say or say anything differently, it’s a surprise that Malli Raava tugs your heart strings in the end. There’s nothing new per se, however, there’s no denying that it feels like a deeply personal film inspired from real life incidents. Perhaps, the best way to describe “Malli Raava’ would be the very act of refreshing your memory and every time you hit the refresh button, a different memory pops up. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or surreal. It’s right there, hidden somewhere. The movie is just a catalyst to rekindle those moments where you felt human.