Heads and Tales Movie Review: A light-hearted drama that plays to its strengths
Sai Krishna Enreddy’s 83-minute film is a self-aware and engaging film that steers clear of pretentiousness
It is a joy to watch when characters in films do not behave like they are conscious of the fact that they are in a film. It takes effort to create “realness”, a mood that persists through most parts of Heads and Tales, written by Sandeep Raj and directed by Sai Krishna Enreddy. The film posits an idea that sounds complex (one that’s likely to ooze pretentiousness, had the treatment differed) when put in words but the screenplay envelopes it into a tale entirely resting on triviality and simplicity. To talk about its story, there isn’t anything substantial, or say, that can be elaborated. Peep into the screenplay, and you have a lot to unpack. In fact, a line from the film’s only song, ‘Andhari katha okate ata’ penned by Kittu Vissapragada, asserts, “All of our stories are the same. It’s the screenplay that differentiates the lives and consequences.” This is the mantra the film lives by.
Directed by: Sai Krishna Enreddy
Starring: Sri Vidya Maharshi, Divya Sripada, Chandini Rao, Sunil
Streaming on: ZEE5
Heads and Tales opens with a clueless human (Raghuram Sreepada) interviewing God, referred to as Chief (played by Sunil, donned in black and black). Seated in front of walls adorned with portraits of late luminaries such as Rabindranath Tagore, SP Balasubramaniam, and Savitri, the man and the God converse about life and existence. Catastrophes like Big Bang and the Covid-19 pandemic are also wittily simplified. God decides to expound the vastness of the world and destiny to the human, and a helmet (yes, a helmet) becomes the conduit for the man to witness how the residuals of one person’s actions influence the other. You are not expected to take it seriously for a single minute.
We are then introduced to the three main characters (or simply, the specimen for karma), Alivelu Manga (Divya Sripada), a constable with an abusive husband, Anisha (Sri Vidya Maharshi), an aspiring actor with an abusive fiancee, and Shruthi (Chandini Rao), a young girl with daddy issues. When Anisha’s boyfriend threatens to inflict physical violence on her for pursuing acting as a profession against his will, she seeks the help and security of Manga. The film is all about conversations and dynamics between the characters, mostly Manga and Anisha. The interactions feel real; film stars are referred to describe people in their lives, and even filmy analogies are countered. Early on, parallels are drawn between the lives of Manga and Anisha with intercuts illustrating the similitude of their lives; even the dialogues match during confrontations with their respective partners. The film is essentially about the two bonding over the course of a night. Shruthi’s arc, on the other hand, prevails individually and doesn’t merge with the central proceedings, although there are a couple of threads connecting it to the actual storyline. Towards the end, I even wondered whether Shruthi’s absence would have made any difference to the storyline, apart from substantiating an emotional track.
Although it gives the impression of being a rather serious ‘snapshot of life’, Heads and Tales is a delightfully simple drama with pretty low stakes. Take, for instance, the men in the lives of the three characters—who exist to either discomfit or threaten them—and seem like the antagonists of the story. But the resolution to these conflicts comes across as a pleasant surprise; it further corroborates the simplicity the film keeps aiming for.
However, it irks when Heads and Tales tries to be a “film”. A scene where Anisha confides in Manga, with the violin strings augmenting the sadness and the edit pattern cutting to the latter reacting, does not quite fit into the mood the film establishes. In fact, it feels like the maker is trying too hard to make us feel what the characters going through. Barring a few outliers like this, it’s mostly a self-aware drama though.
I also liked how these women are not simply portrayed as exhibits of abusive relationships. In a great scene, Anisha runs into one of her childhood friends (Suhas), who offers to help her settle scores with her boyfriend; she refuses. He then goes on to share an incident from their school days, where Anisha was teased by a classmate of hers. By the direction of the story, you guess it was him who defended her from the teaser, but turns out, she was her own defender. Touches like these set Heads and Tales apart. It makes the most of its simple premise and delivers an effective drama with touches of novelty and quirkiness.