A trip to Goa turns into a soul-searching adventure for two childhood friends and soon they are forced to come to terms with their real feelings for each other. If this was a pitch for a film then it might very well have been an auto-generated story idea from Imtiaz Ali’s bank of love stories. But in the hands of director Manjula Ghattamaneni, it becomes something entirely different.
She is not interested in making yet another Dil Chahta Hai or any spin-off of Imtiaz Ali’s love stories. Her intent is something more deep. She wants you to connect with ‘nature’ and feel the love that every element of nature — plants, hills, waterfalls, Sun, water, forests, Sunrise, butterflies — have to offer. For all you know, the love story in her directorial debut Manasuku Nachindhi is between humans and nature, not a young couple who are not sure about their feelings for each other.
Manasuku Nachindhi is a story about Suraj (Sundeep Kishan) and Nithya (Amyra Dastur) whose friendship is mistaken as love by their respective families. The two could not be more different. Suraj is an aspiring photographer and Nithya comes ‘alive’ when she connects with nature, so to speak. In one of the scenes quite early in the film, the couple are on a road trip to Goa. And in the middle of nowhere, Nithya screams on top of her voice that she is coming to find her love — in ‘nature’. If this story was set in Antarctica, David Attenborough would have enlightened us about the meaning behind mating call of the penguins. But nope, let us not deviate ourselves from the nature around us. Because Manasuku Nachindhi is a fine example of how ideas to enlighten the audience can ruin a simple love story.
It is easy to spot ideas which Manjula really wants to convey. Every time she has something important to say, the dialogue will have the key phrase — Manasuku Nachindhi. It is a pattern throughout the film and be assured that this is the only thing that matters in the story because the rest of it is so bland that I was clearly at loss of words.
Before you forget, the film is about nature and how it helps you reconnect with your true feelings. So, when Suraj is confused about what he wants to do and whether he can ever be a good photographer or not, his heart melts when he sees a butterfly. He goes into a trance when he sees the sunrise, and a waterfall cascading down the rocks. After that moment, he becomes a genius photographer because his heart has connected with the nature. It is a match made in heaven, we are told. And when Nithya connects with the nature around her, she is so overjoyed that it is a sight that you have to witness. Dastur smiles at the drop of a hat and oh boy, Manjula does drop the hat a lot of times… so many times that I began to wonder if Amyra had more smiles-per-second than the frequency with which the butterfly flapped its wings in glorious CGI.
Having said that, who are we to judge how one is supposed to behave when they connect with nature? Shortly after watching Manasuku Nachindhi, where every frame is painted with some hue of green — lush green forests, green plants, green clothes, green backgrounds — I had an insane urge to revisit Mad Max Fury Road multiple times just to tell myself that there are other colours in the cinematic universe too. This obsession with ‘green’ to drive home a point — that nature is all around us — is one of the many issues that the film has.
But none of them is as important as poor writing from the first scene to the last. At a very fundamental level, the story does have some merit, but it just does not get the cinematic treatment it deserves. Manasuku Nachindhi is supposed to be a coming-of-age film where characters eventually figure out what they want to do in life but it ends up being an experience that you do not want to remember seconds after the end credits roll if you manage to sit through for that long.
Among the three actors, it’s Dastur who gets a more nuanced role which comes with three variations — be overjoyed, be happy, be sad. You can see how hard she has worked to feel what her role requires her to feel but when the film itself feels like a caricature, nothing seems endearing enough after that. Kishan too finds himself stuck in a role which does not let him find himself. We are told that Suraj is an angry man and he gets one scene to display that emotion but in most cases, Suraj is sidelined to make way for Nithya and Nikki (Tridha Chaudhary). Tridha gets lost in the proceedings and so do, Priyadarshi and Abhay.
Given the numerous references to ‘nature’ and the colour green throughout the film, the only thing missing in the film was perhaps a ‘green lantern/lamp’ because that would have at least given an indication to everyone to move on and not stop on their heels to appreciate nature at every stage. Clearly, there are two stories here — one which Manjula wanted to tell and the other which ended up becoming a film. Now, I am not even sure which one was more engrossing to convince everyone that this was the perfect medium to help poor souls reconnect with nature in order to find themselves.
However, the film did achieve something which I thought was highly improbable — in its attempt to romanticise and pay an ode to nature, it becomes so over-indulgent that it forces you to not think about nature for a while. But hey…I do not know what I am going to do if I spot a butterfly the next time. I might just walk away in the opposite direction and let the beautiful creature fly away in peace.
Published Date: Feb 17, 2018 14:15 PM | Updated Date: Feb 17, 2018 14:15 PM