Virata Parvam: Over dependence on Template
Star Cast: Rana Daggubati, Sai Pallavi, Priyamani, Nivetha Pethuraj, Nanditha Das, Naveen Chandra, Zareena Wahab, Eswari Rao, and Rahul Ramakrishna.
Cinematography by Dani Sanchez Lopez & Divakar Mani
Music Composed by Suresh Bobbili
Produced by D Suresh Babu & Sudhakar Chekuri
Directed by Venu Udugula
Naxals or Naxalite movement in United Andhra Pradesh became violent in the 1980s. But in the movie it is shown as in 1973, the fight between Police and Naxals was as serious as them going for the shootout. How true is that sequence? Maybe few people started taking rifles or guns and for film, they might have dramatized it. That first sequence itself gave an idea about how the movie is going to be. I don’t think any police would accept that they would shoot a lady holding a baby in the head. Some humanity layer like waiting for her to come out and then shooting her might have made even the Police, who were supposed to be villains of this story slightly humane. Rather than surprising, it came across as so amateurish – acting-wise and writing-wise, it gave an idea that the director was going for shock value than emotional value. Had it been a competent storyteller at the helm, he might have shown how even police who were part of the shootout also got shot by a Naxal group member not making it a one-sided story. In any other film, there could be villains and heroes, in a story about the Naxal movement there can only be humans with weapons. Sindhooram (1997) for example takes that route. People feared the police, but not everyone was a bad guy with a gun and power in hand.
This story didn’t need to take such an approach but the director wrote a scene to show how sympathetic people were towards Naxals due to police inaction and general perception of how they help or be on the side of rich, powerful people. Rahul Ramakrishna‘s scene was a simple example and Naxals in the Telangana area, where the story happens in the film, actually rose against the Patel-Patwari system. Dasari Narayana Rao touched upon their atrocities in Osey Ramulamma (1997). Even in that film, DNR did not entirely show police as villains, he maintained balance as sympathizers within Police for Naxals used to exist. If you read a few paper clippings and then talk to just only affected people then the story will be half-complete and half-baked. When you try to know the story from both sides and what the police tried to really do to change the perception of people or how human they were even during combat missions, this screenplay would have been better and more emotional. Director went for a screenplay where you see police on the screen, there would be a shootout or heroine harassment or a cunning plan. Won’t that look one-sided?
Virata Parvam tries to place Police as Kauravas and Naxals as Pandavas. It literally says it out too. Pandavas did not fight against the system but yes, they could be categorized as first revolutionists as they imbibed some practices in their lives that even today we don’t see among people in general. Not just talking about Draupadi, they used to live their lives on principles that are hard to follow even today. Equating someone like Pandavas to Naxals more or less comes across as amateurish too. It would come across as undermining a more socialistic principled movement to “supposedly idealistic Kings”. It’s not about different time periods or challenges but the motive. Pandavas were trying to run for their lives and perform penance. Naxals went into forests to challenge System.
An even more amateurish definition of Virata Parvam from the original Mahabharatam in the film was calling, “Pandavas as coverts”. Again saying this, Pandavas did not pull off any covert mission by hiding in Virata’s Palace. They hid from Kauravas and came out after the one-year period was completed. Where was any covert operation there? Covert operation by definition from Google, ” A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of (or allow plausible deniability by) the party that instigated the operation. Covert operations should not be confused with clandestine operations, which are performed in secret and meant to stay secret.” So, Pandavas in Virata’s Palace can be called clandestine operation as they wanted to always keep it secret and killed Keechaka in secret, disguise, not as coverts.
Why would you bother about such a simple metaphor? What difference does it make?
To answer these questions, storytelling excites me because every storyteller tries to find a metaphor to compare their situation with. Those metaphors make the difference otherwise a story seems just like a boy meeting a girl or a man with a gun shooting another man or a woman with a gunshot another woman or a man. There can be why? But when you add a metaphor and say, “This man fell in love with that woman just like how a butterfly lands on the flower for pollination”. You try to understand the metaphor behind it. If you see the beauty it comes across as nature’s creation, if you take it as a description of a “sexual act” then it might come across as vulgar too. A writer or storyteller is the one who makes you find those metaphors in your own perception. A story is elaborated stitching of sequences and the storyteller makes it interesting. So, metaphors are important…
The entire film comes across as the director’s mind wanting to say one story and his heart trying to tell another. Sarala, on whom this story is based on, never fell in love with anyone but with the Movement or ideology behind it all. So, if you take situations from her life and force-fit a love story into it, then it just comes across as clumsy. Either take her life situations and tell them or tell a love story that has romance in it. If this story is all about the obsession of a woman, then rather than trying to find a metaphor in the hero, Ravanna, as a symbol of ideology, it could have just been a story of a woman obsessed with joining the movement and her tracks, steps to reach there were susceptive. In the process, she finds a young, charming man who helps her and falls for him. But her love for movement and love for this man splits her. To her surprise, he turns out to be Naxalite. She happily joins him and the establishment is not pleased with him recruiting someone on his own. The suspicion starts and the police take advantage. He himself who witnessed her in a few suspectable situations takes action. The same story told by Director with Virata Parvam metaphor could be said in the way, I wrote for an example or in any other best possible way. But his way ended up being convoluted as he did not make it a love story or did not make it “a biopic of a young obsessed girl” or did not make it a story about obsession meeting purpose (which was the director’s intention in the first half and it vanished in second. Had it been about her purpose then, “her purpose in life was to meet Ravanna”, nothing else).
Metaphors in the film and even the execution don’t work. Maker tried hard to make it into an action flick as his heart has been trying to project only Sarala’s life. But mind wanted it to be a tale about sacrifice, suspicion, love, and obsession with a message about how finding purpose in life could lead to dangerous outcomes. Hence, the movie ended up being as convoluted as it sounds, here. Sai Pallavi, Nandita Das, Zarina Wahab were wasted to the core. The movie wants to be epic with a heart-touching story but ends up as a panorama pic that just tries to fit everything in a wide angle, in a single shot. They can also work but which shot can be panorama that cannot lie in the hands of the storyteller. Unfortunately, this storyteller wanted commerce to marry with artistic variety. It ended up being an amateurish dream of a six-year-old kid…