Hi Nanna: Dementia Villa
Star Cast: Nani, Mrunal Thakur, Baby Kiara Khanna, Jayaram, Priyadarshi, Nassar, and Angad Bedi
Music Composed by Hesham Abdul Wahab
Cinematography by Sanu John Varghese
Directed by Shouryuv
In Telugu, there are many sayings or idioms (సామెతలు) that could suit the film, Hi Nanna. I picked two that came to my mind. The first one, “అతి సర్వత్ర వర్జయేత్” – “Athi Sarvathra Varjayeth” means trying too hard always leaves you underwhelmed. The second one, “అమ్మ పెట్టా పెట్టదు,అడుక్కు తినా తిననివ్వదు” – “While keeps you away from food, she doesn’t even allow you eat out”.
We have different types of friends – hi-bye friends or group friends, lifelong friends, best friends, one-sided friends, and the list goes on. Parents are advised to be best friends, in any social strata, these kinds of friends are given the highest priority. Many say they share everything with one person without any fear of judgment, which they don’t even do with their parents. Those are best friends. So, parenting is more or less like learning to become a best friend to another person, without any prejudice or ownership. At least, that’s what I understand it should be. Your definition may vary, but this approach seems more humane.
I find it odd when parents start blaming themselves for their children’s behavior. If your friends don’t listen to you, you try to tell them and hope that they find it sensible. Still, if they go ahead and act on their wishes, you don’t push them away but try to understand them. You learn with them and stand by them every time. Hi Nanna could have been a story about a failed father and mother learning from a younger father how to be better parents. It could have been a tale about a mother learning how to be one without knowing who she is. It could have also been a tale about a couple finding their spark again after distancing each other. But it ends up bringing the first idiom true.
Movies often fall into the trap of hyper melodrama, where everything is exaggerated to such a level that it becomes difficult to avoid. It is easy to cross over into melodrama when writing drama. Therefore, finding the line where you can still be subtle and strong is a must. Dil Chahta Hai  could have been a melodrama, but the director brilliantly holds it back, keeping the tone consistent. Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara  also holds itself back to give real-life drama the emotional steering. When you watch a film like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , you tend to go back and see if you are in the process of erasing someone from your life whom you shouldn’t. The movie aggressively talks about the story and moments, never trying to tell you when to cry or laugh. In fact, the people who come to do the operation on the protagonist participate in sex, leaving us wondering how cruel they can be. Definitely, Maybe  keeps the premise simple and more or less like a comic and subtle version of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai .
Even the director of a big cult classic, Karan Johar, managed to avoid melodrama traps in his recent film, Rocky Aur Rani kii Prem Kahaani . He tried to stay away from them politely, but he couldn’t avoid them completely in the climax. However, for the world he created, it seemed fitting. In Kal Ho Naa Ho , drama is enhanced by actors and music, while the makers pushed until the pre-climax to stay away from unnecessary melodrama. Drama needs to be heightened to such a level that you feel the melodrama is in tune with the situation, but not like Parineeta , where things are always handled in a broad and melodramatic way, making the climax underwhelming. The major problem with this film is that it is neither melodramatic nor dramatic nor light-hearted. It keeps swinging, trying to find its tone, as influences of Mani Ratnam, English films, and a few more classical romances are visible.
The second idiom comes true when the motivations of the characters are revealed. There are two ways to tell a story: 1) this happened in their life-style and 2) this happened because of this. Animal  and 12th Class  films belong to the first category, while Sapta Sagaraadache Ello  films belong to the second category. You can choose any but cannot choose both. Then the tone becomes convenient. Nani character Viraj’s motivation is to give his child the belief that she can survive no matter what. He is a positive person for whom life keeps throwing negative things at him. Mrunal’s character has grown up in a negative household, and her mother’s attitude towards life influenced her. But why did her father’s way not shown any influence? If someone goes through amnesia, you try to give them a context to bring their memories back and life back. In no world does a mother not know that she gave birth to someone. Physical changes will give away.
It’s true that our minds never rest when we’re unable to remember a stranger’s name who tries to talk like a friend. So, how can anyone be happy and pleased knowing they lost six years of their life? If someone does, then there should be a lot of conditioning that helped them to look at things from their point of view. The conflict should be about accepting the reality that never seems to be true. When you touch this aspect and leave it for drama and melodrama, it inflicts confusion, not conflict. The story is about a kid’s desire to know about her mother. In this case, a father should be fighting to give her that solace and connection so that she feels even more charged to fight her battle with life. Rather, a positive man pushing his own kid into negative thoughts unknowingly gives good irony, but no one else pushing him to do the contrary baffles me.
Filmmaking has evolved since the 80s and 90s, where issues were not sorted until the climax. In this film, the inner conflict of two people who gave up on each other should have been the crux, or the kid who caused division should have been a bigger catalyst in bringing them together. While the writer-director attempted both, he could not convince the motivations of characters properly. Why didn’t the positive person try to show the same positivity to his wife when, as a mother, she was in a dark phase? That’s not his character. A scene that adds to his inner turmoil or a lack of belief creeping in should have been hinted at. We should have been wondering if that kid gets at least her wish to spend time with her mother, rather than the convoluted suspense of her not knowing about her mother. When you already have a lead who is accepted to play the mother, why not push it a bit more to see what drama unfolds from the kid’s perspective as well?
Several people complain that I try to talk about what film I wish to see rather than on the film, I saw. It is about both from my side. When a few good ideas go down the drain because of bad execution, you tend to give possible solutions to hope that it is not the case for others or the same person. Hi Nanna had a beautiful film waiting to unfold somewhere, and I’m afraid I didn’t find that somewhere. Nani’s performance is okay, and Mrunal Thakur suddenly lost her baby charm. So, both did not seem to be setting the screen on fire with their chemistry. Music by Hesham Abdul Wahab and Frames by Sanu Varghese are the life of the film. Rather than trying to look at it as a forced non-linear narrative, the director could have given everything another thought on the editing table. Maybe the climax could have been better. While I wanted a conversation with this Nanna, he was too much in a Dementia Villa that all I could do was say Hi and then walk away.