Vikram K Kumar’s Hello (2017) Movie Review
Star Cast: Akhil Akkineni, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Jagapati Babu, Ramya Krishna, Mikhail Gandhi, Myrah and Ajay
Directed by Vikram Kumar
Scripted by Mukund Pandey & Vikram Kumar
Music Composed by Anup Rubens
Cinematography by P S Vinod
Edited by Prawin Pudi
Censor Certificate: U & Runtime: 128 Minutes
“There is no coincidence, it’s all destiny”
When you walk into a theatre that is playing Vikram K Kumar‘s film, you are entitled to think about three things, one, what is the story he is planning to tell. Two, what will he add to the characters and how will he design characterizations. Three, details he leaves behind for us to catch on and the way he pays off his plot devices and points. The best writer for screen or even for a novel tries to build a universe that you can imagine and relate but follows his or her own guidelines and set of logic, that he defines feasible. That’s the reason, we see few taking too many liberties while few cracking the balance well. Vikram is that kind of a writer, who likes a challenge and decides to pull it off with a highly convincing narrative.
“The devil lies in the details”
There is a devil that very writer fails to crack, detailing. You need that to keep your story moving and interesting. You need minute additions to create a world of your own. A movie or a story is your own world, in a short story all you need to focus is on the point you want to make and in a longer version, you need expansion to make it readworthy. Then, for a novel you need chapters and there these details add on to the interest and for the screen, you need visual aides and beautiful set pieces to create and narrate through them. Vikram has a knack for identifying what detail works for his story and how new he can present it. You can say, he took the 100 rupee note point from Serendipity, you can say this is Manasantha Nuvve (itself inspired from 1946 film Anmol Gadi) and you can also say it is a part of Donga Ramudu here and there (mainly the childhood episode has elements that are relatable to the old classic).
Well, a keen eye can catch movies that were made on certain points that Vikram K Kumar used here, but Vikram doesn’t use them in the same way. He picks the idea and gives it his own twist. He doesn’t really care for it being a used idea but presents it with his own style and mark. He can take you into his world and then give you all the stuff to ponder on within it. It is a maze, that he wizardly creates and then, solves it for you as you wonder, when he prepares it all in front of your eyes. That’s the reason his writing feels strong and his movie looks creative.
“Take an old object and sell it to me as a new one”
When you are interested in telling a love story, you’re forced to see many romances that are already made and re-affirm yourself that you have a new one to tell. If not, then tell the old one with a fresh take. Make it yours. Even though we hear our grandparents say similar stories, we love to hear it how they say again and again, when they innovate and re-invent. We hear a person like Garikapati Narasimha Rao, for that sake, numerous pandits, narrate Mahabharatam more because of the way they add their own way of understanding to the established and well-known story.
Similarly, story never gets old it’s the presentation that needs renovation and re-invention. Vikram Kumar understands how artistically he can do that and keep the interest going in the proceedings adding new layers to the story. In Hello, he establishes enough friendship between Seenu and Junnu, but then takes it into love zone with Avinash and Priya. If one is convinced that Seenu is the same person then only Junnu deserves him and vice versa is true too. So, Seenu as Avinash needed to meet Priya and fall for her again and she needed to do so too. But that needed the fairy angel who accidentally distanced them to bring them together too. Then, the 100 rupee note too had to play its part and phone number needed to be found as well.
The details needed a payoff and he gives each and every time with great attention. He is such an honest storyteller that he can’t do without and he has to give them all the needed closer to feel satisfied and accomplished. This very strength of his writing can be his weakness too. For him, the detailing is important but is it for everyone? He might have carried away like Romancophilia in 24. Here, he doesn’t take it to such heights but in trying to add much more weight to his story, creates the fairy angel characters in Seenu’s life and narrates what molded him and how he is still grounded and Seenu, the worthy love of Junnu with undercurrent themes. If you think for a second, you feel they are extensions to the story that a clever writer used to mesmerize you than that is really needed for the story to work.
It is such choices that he makes gives him strength and weakness too. Also, in his need for perfection in execution, he does hope everyone has the same patience levels as he does and if you do wait for it, he narrates the story with those small details in a great way. Such is the case for Hello too, you can wonder if this is all needed? But, that’s an afterthought and you don’t feel while he is narrating it to you.
Vikram needed to launch a young hero here and there is definitely a commercial aspiration. The producer of the movie being the hero’s father, he wanted nothing to be left behind. He tried to not do much with story or over complicate it. Also, the producer wanted his son to be shown as a likable ‘hero’ too. Hence, he is the only person in rain doesn’t care about it and help them out. He heroically defends goons and worries about nothing, no hurdles can stop him and he is the most desirable one. He is the only person in discussion and on the show throughout. That’s the reason we see Akhil more than Vikram in this one but even in such film, Nagarjuna didn’t let the story suffer and had a gracious amount of time for young friendship to build.
What is the difference between Avinash and Seenu? Did the pursuit for Junnu stop when he met Priya? We always think about a person and have a representation of them in our thoughts. We don’t shy away to make them the most beautiful people ever. So, Avinash would have been thinking about Junnu and imagining how she would be. If he had tried to digitally re-draw her or even tried to draw an image of her to remember, then his character would have been just a man looking for a girl. Vikram wanted two souls to meet and do they need identification? Not much. So, when Avinash and Priya are with each other there are indications and gestures that say, their souls are ready to meet but physically they can’t. For this, the fatal attraction they have for each other, the unconditional and irrevocable love and care, they have for each other is established. If we strip off the story of that friendship of youngsters, why should they meet? Because a small girl had a crush on a street boy? So, Seenu and Junnu (played by Mikhail & Myrah), however convincingly portrayed, as Priya and Avinash, the souls needed to still be looking for them. Hence, unknowingly they needed to fall for each other, they needed to convince themselves that their search is ended even though at a sub-conscious level. That’s the reason Priya feels a lump in her heart and Avinash is always restless. Seenu was a happy kid, Avinash has everything but nothing. He needs Seenu in him to feel happy again and only, the sound of Junnu and essence of Priya can help him. Can’t dwell into more details than this, as it is a spoiler territory.
“If you love your craft then try to work in and with team”
P.S. Vinod masterfully takes all the painstaking effort to give Vikram the visuals he needs to execute his vision. You meet Seenu, in a world that is so true for him and Avinash, in a world that suits him. Even though they are same, they are miles apart in leading a comfortable life with pain. Seenu needed someone like Junnu to feel alive while Avinash has many around the absence of Priya suffocates him to run for fresh air every morning. Vinod craftily executes the differences with lighting and color tones like just he can. He doesn’t fill up the frames but gives them a meaning to ponder upon. Anup Rubens is a very good composer when he has a guide who exactly knows what he wants and delivers again his best to his best guide, Vikram (pun intended). Editing by Prawin Pudi is true to what Vikram needed but here and there, few flaws in pacing do hammer the progress.
We have to congratulate Art Department here for taking all the pain in filling up the frames with real art. You can see that in the middle of the road there is a fountain and a small cupid frame is always shot in such a way that, Cupid is behind their story. Cupid is a man who connects souls not a person who finds your sex partner. So, his involvement indicates there is love that is within and it branches out in different forms in different ways. The fountain is such symbol that indicates the ways of love. There are seven ways, a soul can love another one and for a detailed explanation of that concept, better I would ask Gulzar saab than me writing about it. Just watch and listen to Satarangi re from Dil Se, shot by Mani Ratnam. You can see how creative Seenu is and why he is capable of a captivating tune. As I said, he is a happy kid, he knows how to be satisfied and innovate in his own world. Even though it is a bit ET kind of framing we can see that the tree is designed in such a shape to indicate Seenu’s dream home than just his misery. The reason for him to feel he isn’t at home with these two strangers is also hidden there. Vikram is a strong believer in myth that says, you need to have a soul connection over seven lives, to be someone today, to be able to have a person as your kid today and as some loving parents today. That is why, they felt like parents to this kid and that’s the reason their other trials did not work out.
I can go on and on about things that really stood out but glaring mistakes like over-commercialization, in some or the other way, trying to add meat for Akhil, the story tries to just explore his point of view more than others. The lovely balance that could have been brought in to the story had to be his perspective in flashbacks. We only get his perspective of things which he could have listened from Priya and there is no over-complication from her angle of the story too. It feels simple as the narrator needed to adhere to a demand that keeps the protagonist more and more active. Bring out his skills to the fore than his weaknesses. Vikram blended it all seamlessly but let the flaws bug you too, as he couldn’t do much than that!
In performances, Akhil Akkineni takes the cake and surprises us that there is an actor in him. It is a surprise for anyone who saw his Akhil! He did pull off the role convincingly but before we can judge him totally, we need to see him in another film. Can he be so convincing in other films too? Let’s hold the thoughts until we see his next. Kalyani Priyadarshan has an expensive face and eyes are the asset. She does need author-backed roles though. Can’t say anything new for Ramyakrishnan and Jagapathi Babu. Felt like they gave their heartfelt performances. Just the scene where Avinash first calls Sarojini, “mother” is enough to show how good Ramya Krishnan is and the scene where Jagapathi Babu first meets Seenu is subtle enough to indicate what Jagapathi Babu can bring to a story than just being Jaggu Bhai.
All in all, this is a piece of art that Vikram K Kumar created, as thanks to a producer who let him create Manam and gave him wings. How much Manam holds dear to him and how thankful he is? We can see that all in the film. Maybe that’s the reason the narrator in him taking few back steps for the young performer to show off his skills that are not entirely required for this story. It is a narrator’s dream to pull off a convincing narrative with a simple and old story that is as old as romance itself. That’s why Dil Se needed to be Satarangi love and that’s the reason Hello, is more of an apology letter by an young actor and a formidable thanks by the creator of the film to almighty and the producer.