Sridevi Shoban Babu Movie Review: A prolonged, predictable drama
A mishmash of several tried and treasured tropes, Sridevi Shoban Babu fails to engross the viewer
Sridevi Shoban Babu, the film’s title, refers to the names of the hero and heroine of the film, I suppose this is meant to be interpreted in the way Geetha Govindam (2018) as a title alludes to the names of its respective leads. But Sridevi Shoban Babu is also a blend of the names of yesteryear stars Sridevi and Shoban Babu, and the second name of the film’s male lead, Santosh Sobhan. There is no particular reason behind all this meta-ness finding its way into the film, except for the fact that callbacks are quite common in mainstream Telugu cinema. This could also be the explanation for why everything else exists the way it does in Sridevi Shoban Babu.
Cast - Gouri G Kishan, Santosh Shoban, Nagababu Konidela, Rohini Molleti
Director - Prasanth Kumar Dimmala
Sridevi Shoban Babu is the story of first cousins Shoban (Santosh Sobhan) and Sridevi (Gouri G Kishan), who are the only children of estranged siblings (played by Nagababu Konidela and Rohini Molleti). They hear stories of being wronged by their aunt/uncle and go to Araku to claim ownership of a contested property, that their common grandfather only wished to bequeath to the family if his children’s children get married. Lies are told, grudges are held, quarrels occur and amidst all of this, love emerges between the members of the new generation and saves the day!
Marrying a blood relative is a common sociological practice in many parts of India, including the Telugu states, and this aspect of culture has found its way into many Telugu films over the years, to the point where we can even consider the Bava-Maradalu love stories as a subgenre unique to language. Personal reservations and medical issues notwithstanding, the Bava-Maradalu angle became the foundation of many beloved films, from Ninne Pelladatha (1995) to Murari (2001) to Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (2013) and Uyyala Jampala (2013). What is also interesting about films like these is that they take first cousins, two people who could easily get approval for their marriage and pit them against conflicts that tear them apart and put their relationship in jeopardy. Sridevi Shoban Babu, with two parties warring for a house and Austen-style misunderstandings, is cut from this same cloth. To be a bit more precise, Sridevi Shoban Babu, especially in its second half, derives heavily from Trivikram’s A Aa (2016), where, in true Trivikram style, the love of two related individuals is entangled in larger familial disputes.
There is nothing wrong with incorporating tropes into a film, there is a good reason why they continue to be the ingredient behind many successful films. But these tropes must be reinvented by the director, by putting his own spin on it. Sridevi Shoban Babu falls short severely in this area. The film screams generic from the get-go. There is little to write about the specific shortcomings of this film, only a lot to say about how the narrative in its entirety, is bereft of freshness and verve.
The lack of cinema-appropriate depth-of-field in most frames, the barely functional editing, or the unfunny jokes gives the audience a feeling of watching an amateur short film.
Gouri G Kishan looks largely uninterested and Santosh Shoban, who has the looks and the charm to be a rom-com hero is wasted here. Rohini Molleti, playing Santosh’s mother tries hard to bring sincerity and dignity to her character but comes off as a mere two-dimensional outline of all the mother characters she has lately been playing in Telugu films.
I really wish filmmaker Prasanth Kumar Dimmala was aware that borrowing plots from popular films or name-dropping yesteryear celebrities are clearly not enough to make the family entertainer he intended to make.