Sridevi Soda Center Review: A troubled love story that is not told imaginatively
Sudheer Babu and Anandhi perform earnestly, so also the VK Naresh-Raghu Babu duo. Pavel Navageethan is a minus.
Title: Sridevi Soda Center
Cast: Sudheer Babu, Anandhi and others
Director: Karuna Kumar
What happens when a small-time electrician from a lower-middle-class and lower caste background dreams of marrying the woman of his choice in a caste-ridden village in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh? Feudalism and casteism come together to threaten his very existence. But can he trump them and win his seemingly safe girl?
The biggest problem with 'Sridevi Soda Center' is not that it lacks a fresh story. It's that it doesn't know how to portray pain and misery. In one of the initial moments, Suribabu (Sudheer Babu), a lightman, flaunts his he-man looks during a dangerous boat race. He attempts to smile his way through the cut-throat tournament that has been infiltrated by miscreants. The scene, unfortunately, becomes the film's defining moment and not the denouement that subverts the climactic tradition the commercial Telugu cinema universe has been known for.
Considering that writer-director Karuna Kumar seeks to build an anti-caste narrative around the love story, the strains between the characters should have been handled with original imagination. Even the strain in the relationship between the hero and the villain is staged in a run-of-the-mill fashion. To be sure, there is an overt villain and there is a covert antagonist. The former is a feudalist, whose brutality is portrayed in a one-note fashion. What is worse, he has got a token presence in the story. His combat with Suribabu takes the form of a stale dishum-dishum segment, a sequence that comes undone by an unremarkable stunt choreography.
A lot of the story is anchored in the impromptu conversations between the characters. As such, the lines should have been unconventional (ironically, Suribabu once tells Sridevi not to mouth off routine lines, as if his dialogues are novel).
Whenever a story of this kind is set in a village, our films make the male lead look as reckless as possible. It's so old-school. To the film's credit, a Godavari village is not romanticized. Director Karuna Kumar doesn't whitewash the casteism that is prevalent in the coastal villages. His failures lie elsewhere.
If the depiction of public humiliation and the portrayal of pain are underwhelming, the narration doesn't make us feel that a private issue has been made into a public (caste) issue by the regressive elements in the village. Suribabu's wounds are somewhat self-inflicted and even this aspect is not exploited cleverly. Sridevi's rebellion against Kasi is the only bright spot in her characterization.
Suribabu is an undertrial prisoner whose behaviour and demeanour are not believable at all. More than him, his friend (Satyam Rajesh) and another acquaintance (Harshavardhan) come across as stressed out. The arc cries for an emotional core.
Sudheer Babu and Anandhi perform earnestly, so also the VK Naresh-Raghu Babu duo. Pavel Navageethan is a minus. Mani Sharma's music is quintessentially familiar, while Shamdat Sainuddin's cinematography is efficient.
The film is proof enough that great love doesn't necessarily translate into a great love story. The honour-versus-love element has been milked by quite a few filmmakers already. 'Sridevi Soda Center' doesn't make it sound any more urgent than what its predecessors already have.