Mohan Krishna Idraganti, the director of Sammohanam is a Dark Horse of the Telugu film industry. Never aiming for the limelight, he quietly makes films that are grounded in reality but are splashed with a surreal feeling nonetheless. Sammohanam is another such film that is effortless and mesmerizing. On the surface this is a Love Story but the conflict in this love story is not a barking villain or a conservative parent, the conflict of interests among the two leads is what sets up the film and the whole meetcute part does not feel jaded as it is set against an interesting premise.
Vijay is a young cartoonist, who believes in the the purity of the art he pursues, as opposed to the corrupt, manipulative and fake ‘ cinema ‘, the art which the other lead pursues, Sameera; a successful North Indian girl who is now a Telugu superstar. However, the most interesting character in the film is Vijay’s father. He is a Brando fan, has posters of Casablanca, Roshomon framed in his room and cries along with SVR, as he appreciates the acting prowess of the actors of the older generation. A father who loves cinema and a son who is a passionate cartoonist and despises cinema for all its fakeness.
A production assistant of a film approaches Vijay’s father, requesting to make their home a film set, the heroine’s home in the movie they are making. The passionate, hungry actor in him, agrees to that and demands a role in the film, in return. Vijay starts helping the North Indian Sameera with her Telugu and over two beautiful melodies by Vivek Sagar, we see them warming up to each other. A love story often sparkles when aided by some truly special music and Sammohanam has the perfect soundtrack that was need to tell this story.
The shooting starts at Vijay’s house and the 20 day shoot provides an opportunity for two expertly done scenes to establish that they have developed feelings for each other and she leaves after the 20 day shoot, as Vijay stands staring at her car as she leaves, trying to comprehend the feeling brewing inside him, for the first time. His confusion and pain are palpable. From this point on, the film could have taken several routes and it even suggests at some possibly dark plot turns but the director quickly makes sure the film does not fall prey to these ambitious ideas and grounds the film by resorting to convenient twists and turns. But this is not a bad idea here, this is a film that knows its limitations. The love story could easily have been darker and complex or there was an option of delving into the artistic differences between the two lovers and exploring the conflict but this film is too assured and smart to do that, it does not try to be ambitious, all it tries to do is tell a good story and it does that expertly. However, a part of me wished that it had not been so convenient but these compromised plot turns lead to a heartwarming climax, so the compromised storytelling is acceptable.
The direction is assured and each scene is staged with the right amount of minimalism and drama. As the film includes a character that is a film star, the complexities of film industry provide an opportunity for some interesting points in the screenplay, which the story uses well, to move forward and hold your interest together. Casting couch, plagiarism are briefly addressed. There is nothing flashy about the direction, just like the storytelling. The film has a clean, straightforward narration that is uncluttered. The director builds a world that we can only aspire to live in. In his world, a young man loves being a cartoonist for children’s books and is supported by a publisher, there is a press conference arranged at the launch of the book and people and media attend the press conference. These things seem far from reality in today’s day and age but you only wish the times were still so beautiful and sensitive, where a kid would read a story with cartoons made in the book and it would get so much backing and appreciation.
Everything about the film is measured and controlled. The performances never miss a beat. Aditi Rao Hydari is currently one of the best in the business. She uses her expressive eyes to enchant you and her angelic face has a charm that lingers on screen, even after she has left the frame. This quality does not just come from the facial beauty, it is the inner purity of the artist that reflects on screen. Sudheer Babu, playing Vijay is not very expressive and is awkward at times but this suits his character in this film, perfectly.
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Each filmmaking aspect comes together to form a synchrony that produced a beautiful film leaving you with the kind of feeling that you want to bottle and take home with you. This is seldom achieved in Telugu cinema, go watch it !