Dear “Anjanaputra” Krish,
We Telugu people simply don’t celebrate great personalities that our land has produced. As a Telugu girl who has grown up in Chennai, a melting pot of cultural activity, I came to know that there were many artistes who shifted base to Chennai because there was barely any support or recognition for their peerless work. Whenever I paid a visit to my native place in Andhra Pradesh, I was saddened time and again to see that my people don’t possess the cultural consciousness that they ought to. Conversations were almost always only about movies. And here is where I want to thank you.
Few directors like you, have used cinema, the only medium that manages to unite and catch the attention of a large number of Telugu people to uplift the quality of our collective consciousness as Telugu people. Despite fresh content and smaller cinema slowly making waves in our film industry, our movies and stories are always caught in dynastic glorification and mindless machismo. But, you have very tactfully used that very sentiment to draw crowds to watch a movie about a king whose contribution has been lost in the pages of history. Above all, by casting Balakrishna as Gautamiputra Satakarni, you have made me see a convincing actor behind this larger than life falsification that previous movies on him have given to his personality.
Balakrishna does not bring a commanding physicality to the role. But not once did I find that problematic while I was watching your movie. Your lead actor grasped the emotion that is Satakarni, and I can safely say that I would have bought into the character even if he were clad in a jeans and t-shirt. Such is the power of the story and characters that you have created. You have tapped into the essence of each of the main characters, and given them a definite emotional graph that fits perfectly with the progress of the story – the historical setting, music, costumes and make up did not have the burden of having to uplift anything. Your script and direction took care of that.
I also want to congratulate you for bravely picking up a historical narrative and writing a script that kept me at the edge of my seat scene after scene. Movies about historic personalities often run the risk of being reduced to panegyrics, and seeming like a play- acting of facts. Your movie contains some well-placed song and dance sequences and adds diversity to the linearity of the narrative – the Kadhaagaanam and Mriganayana songs were entertaining and significant preludes into the changes in the story that were awaiting the audience.
The dialogue writer Sai Madhav Burra has complimented your sophisticated thought process perfectly. The scenes between Vashishti Devi, whose role Shriya Saran executed to perfection, and her husband Satakarni had dialogues that strongly echoed feminism. Satakarni’s mother Gautami Balasri, Vashishti Devi, and Satakarni himself were feminists in their own right. You touched upon notions of sexuality and motherhood, power politics, and the idea of a nation – all of which are rigorously discussed even today.
And to think that you brought to life a story which had so many rich dimensions to it at the visual and subliminal level, in just 79 days, is nothing short of a coup. Telugu people needed to know that there is so much more to our culture than just movies. Your movie had generous doses of patriotism and Telugu pride without seeming jingoistic and ethnocentric. You have awakened Telugu people to their glorious and forgotten past and made the audience think. There are a few directors who I believe will keep the flag of Telugu cinema flying high, and this letter is my “Agra Tamboolam” (which Satakarni presents his mother) to you in that regard.
Saaho “Anjanaputra” Krish!