Sita Ramam Movie Review: Charming love story elevated by layered writing and Dulquer’s performance
This Hanu Raghavapudi film is carefully packaged with layers and beautiful characterisations
Most people watching Sita Ramam would be expecting to witness a classic, old-school love story, told with an influence of Ramayana. Well, the film has got it all, and for starters, its leads are named Sita and Ram. But, director Hanu Raghavapudi, doesn't cease there, he goes on to deliver a carefully packaged film with layers and beautiful characterisations. Especially, Sita Ramam's narrative style elevates it to become an endearing and cherishing romantic period drama.
The screenplay shuttles between two timelines, 1964 and 1984, beautifully presented by cinematographers PS Vinod, and Shreyaas Krishna. From the latter period, is Afreen (Rashmika Mandanna), a Pakistan-origin, India-phobic girl, who is extremely devoted to Islam that she even hates getting help from people who don't follow her faith. When circumstances lead Afreen to her to seek the help of her ex-serviceman grandfather, she is asked to deliver a package in return for him. It is a letter dated 1965, from Lieutenant Ram (Dulquer Salmaan) to Sita Mahalakshmi (Mrunal Thakur). And there begin Afreen’s attempts to unravel the whereabouts of Ram and Sita, who appear to be found nowhere.
Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Rashmika Mandanna, Mrunal Thakur, Sumanth, Gautham Vasudev Meon, and others
Director: Hanu Raghavapudi
We are also introduced to Ram, in parallel, who is serving in the volatile, snow-capped lands of Kashmir. An orphan, his life gets poured with love from all over the country, after a radio journalist (Rohini Molleti) terms him a lone soldier in her show. Ram particularly gets invested in one letter from Sita, who rebukes him for calling himself an orphan, when he has got a wife in her.
The characters in Sita Ramam are not just two-dimensional but are written with multiple layers. For instance, we get to know the compassionate side of Ram, when he cleverly saves the innocent natives even though his command asks him to do otherwise. The scene also makes it clear that he isn’t an outsider who is alien to the culture of the locals. If Hanu’s writing makes you root for Ram, Dulquer’s seamless portrayal of the character makes you cherish his journey. He finds a perfect balance between being a mature man and a hopeless romantic. The third act especially proves once again what the actor is capable of.
The women of Sita Ramam are no less. For instance, among the thousands of letters Ram gets, one belongs to a prostitute mother, who affectionately calls Ram her brother. The way her occupation is revealed does not evoke a sense of disgust or othering but is presented in the most humane way possible.
It is heartening to see both the female leads get sensibly-written characters. Afreen and Sita, have strong pursuits in their lives and aren't reduced to eye candies. The former is confident, believes in what she does, and is righteous in the job she is entrusted with. She also has no qualms in correcting herself when the truth turns out to be different from her stand. On the other hand, Sita isn’t a meek lady either. She is the one who initiates to pursue Ram and does not shy away from him. The second half, especially, has multiple instances where we see Sita as the woman in power. These powerfully written roles pave way for Mrunal Thakur and Rashmika Mandanna to deliver solid performances in their appropriately timed roles.
And for that matter, Sita Ramam does justice to all its characters. Gautham Vasudev Menon as Major Selvan, Sumanth as Brigadier Vishnu Sharma, and Prakash Raj as a high-rank officer, have brief appearances, but their characters add a lot of value to the screen time they occupy. What sticks out like a sore thumb is the force-fitted humour sequences involving Balaji (Tharun Bhascker) and Subramanyam (Murali Sharma). I understand the intention is to deliver comic relief, but their entire act sadly falls flat.
The film also justifies the Hindu epic, Ramayana, on which it is loosely based on. Ram goes in search of Sita whose whereabouts are unknown, fire strands the couple when Ram rescues Sita (though the myth has Hanuman setting Ceylon on fire), and Ram’s friend disguises himself as Hanuman to help him find Sita. There are references to the myth peppered all over, but they are done subtly so that the essence of the main story remains the same.
The film also does not waste any screen time. There is a reason why the film is set in the period it is. Conflicts such as Operation Meghdoot, the Siachen conflict in 1984, and the India-Pakistan War of 1964, justify the hatred the neighbouring countries harboured for each other. Such clever accommodations made in the script, make Sita Ramam a memorable drama with a touch of charm.