Virata Parvam Movie Review: A striking confluence of revolution and romance
A wonderful Sai Pallavi anchors a heavy but telling tale of love set in a tumultuous political climate
The first aspect that strikes you in Virata Parvam, a story emanating from the confluence of revolution and love, is its continuous attempts to represent the amalgamation of these contrasting elements. The closest and most straightforward it comes to in this process is through the shot of Vennela (Sai Pallavi) enveloping the wall painting of the hammer and the sickle inside a heart. In a similar, more poetic shot, she cuts the same symbol on a leaf, with sunlight producing the shadow of the symbol. Vennela, who develops a deep reverence, which then turns into love, for Naxal leader Ravanna (Rana Daggubati) after getting inspired by his writings, describes herself as a butterfly drenched in red, the colour of communism. This dialogue also finds a visual iteration later, when a red butterfly is seen flying in front of the engraved communist symbol under which Vennala sits while waiting to meet the man who inspired her. Even the word ‘Laal Salaam’ sees a brutally straightforward picturisation that connects to the entirety of Vennala’s character arc.
Cast: Sai Pallavi, Rana Daggubati, Priyamani, Naveen Chandra
Directed by: Venu Udugala
You see, despite the verbose nature of the film—filled with dialogues, slogans, poems and folklore tales about its central themes like revolution, resistance, and pursuit of love—the film keeps trying to make the most of the medium. These choices evoke some beautiful imagery tainted by the undercurrent of pain and violence. You might be looking at pleasing shots of these fighters marching through the lap of nature in its unadulterated glory, but we, just like them, cannot savour the beauty because the danger is omnipresent.
The milieu and the setting of the story are split between the picturesque and dilapidated, both haunted by oppression and the resistance the film takes sides with. Perhaps this is why the tension relents and a sense of safety prevails when the film is set in the thick of the forests, a mild safe haven for Ravanna and his comrades. Every time the action moves out of the forest, danger and death waft around. And the film manages to establish the threat without much reliance on graphic gore; perhaps our imagination and knowledge of real-life savagery help in preparing us for the violence and its possible repercussions. Overall, it lends the film a discomforting quality, keeping us on the edge for the most part as we await something terrible to happen. Moreover, we can discern that story is coming from someone who understands this life in and out. Else, we wouldn’t see a policeman (Banerjee) hailing from a backward community point out that while the majority of people being disposed of in this revolution belong to oppressed communities, the higher officials in safer spaces, on both the sides, hail from upper caste communities. That being said, while the writing makes the police its villain, we also get one ‘decent’ policeman who tries to help Vennela.
Virata Parvam is a pure film. It’s an attribute that makes the film a heavy watch. Acharya featured its Naxal protagonist shaking a leg in a dance number. Even the celebrated Sindhooram tried to pack in as much as humour possible through Ravi Teja’s character before diverting its devotion to the subject. Venu Udugula, however, delivers an unflinching narrative where every scene, from the beginning to the last—even though some fall prey to redundancy—contributes to its soul. This can be off-putting for some, but it’s important to know that the film doesn’t try to please us much with whistle-worthy sequences. Yes, there are a few conventional ‘high’ moments, like the one where Ravanna assures an old man that he will avenge the murder of his daughter. However, the camera doesn’t romanticise Ravanna or his pledge, though. We get a static wide shot of the old man standing still as Ravanna walks away. When Vennela reads his writing for the first time--sitting in darkness while a beam of light from the window alludes to the epiphany she experiences--we get montages of Ravanna’s heroic acts interwoven with his inspiring voiceover. Despite a restrained Rana’s limited screentime, the writing and Suresh Bobbili's music make Ravanna’s spirit omnipresent.
Vennala’s pursuit of Ravanna, however, does get tiring after the halfway mark. Thankfully, Venu quickly understands that we have had enough of this journey, guided entirely by a terrific Sai Pallavi. Although the actor doesn’t try too hard acing the Telangana accent, it doesn’t really pull her out of the milieu. She is, without a doubt, the star of the film.
The period and rural setting provide cinematographers Dani Sanchez-Lopez and Divakar Mani a wide arena to play in and they are deftly complemented by Sri Nagendra’s production design that's equally authentic and cinematic. Take, for instance, the shot of a maimed Vennela lying on the floor in the police station after being subjected to torture. We see background light piercing through the gaps of wooden chairs cramped in the background; the background and the framing accentuates the plight of Vennela. Likewise, almost all the ‘good’ people in the story are, at least once in the film, shot using either a candle or other natural light source, surrounded by complete darkness, just like their lives. Such shots reaffirm that Venu Udugala is strong with his visual game.
Towards the end, Venu shares the real incident that instigated him to make the film and one can sense it in his making. After all, he treats it like a retelling of the Meerabai-Krishna love story itself. It's amusing how he draws parallels with the mythology despite setting their stories in an utterly real world.
Virata Parvam might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s certainly not an easy watch. It is not designed for perfunctory viewing and demands a certain level of attention and patience. But backed by unadulterated writing and strong visual treatment, it makes sure that many of its striking images will remain clung to you long after you leave the theatre.