Recently, I read an interview of Mohan Krishna Indraganti, who is one of the most promising directors in Telugu cinema today. He talked about his latest screwball comedy movie, “Ami Thumi“, which was released in theatres on June 9, 2017.
In the interview, he also mentioned how he believes that comedy is a serious business. Having watched Indraganti’s earlier super-hit comedy movie, “Ashta Chamma” (2008), I reflected on what he said. I realised how significant the statement is, at this point of time in Indian cinema – when loud gimmicks and over-the-top acting masquerade as comedy, and turn out to become massive hits. I strongly feel that while a little exaggeration and gimmicks are necessary in films that claim to belong to the genre of comedy, they must not take centre-stage. In such cases, the humour is reduced to mere visual representations. Garish expressions, loud dialogues, and funny body movements become the sole defining elements of this kind of comedy.
Indraganti is one of the few directors who have managed to create a fine balance between the comedy that is layered with gimmicks and one that is subtle. Much like Jandhyala, the torch-bearer of some of the best comedy films ever produced in India, Indraganti also manages to evoke humour holistically by using a multitude of elements.
“Ami Thumi” is one such gem in the genre that will surely remain evergreen. Each scene is interspersed with some kind of humour – it lies either in the rib-tickling dialogues interspersed with jabs at current socio-political issues, the reactions of the characters, the sense of urgency that underlines the tone of the film, or simply in the background score by Mani Sharma that perfectly complements the many hilarious situations in the movie.
The plot of “Ami Thumi” is a riot. Janardhan’s (played by Tanikella Bharani) daughter Deepika (played by Eesha Rebba) and son Vijay (played by Srinivas Avasarala) are in love with people whom he does not approve of. Janardhan is money-minded and wants to marry his daughter off to someone else – in order to get rid of her lover, Ananth (played by Adivi Sesh), who he believes is not wealthy enough. On the other hand, Vijay is in love with Maya (played by Aditi Mykal), the daughter of Janardhan’s friend-turned-rival.
Enter Sri Chilipi (played by Vennela Kishore), who hails from an affluent family whose business is dwindling. His father wants him to marry a wealthy girl, but they have a family custom where the bride’s photo cannot be seen before the first official meeting of the couple. The rest of the story is about how Deepika intelligently plays around with her identity, capitalising on her tiff with her father, and using Sri Chilipi and his family customs to get her way.
Indraganti is known to borrow inspiration generously from literary works. In fact, his first film – the vastly-acclaimed “Grahanam” was based on a story written by the popular Telugu writer Chalam (Gudipati Venkatachalam). Similarly, “Ashta Chamma”, his first comedy film, was inspired by a play written by Oscar Wilde. “Ami Thumi” is no different – Indraganti mentioned that it is based on an English play written by the Irish playwright Richard Sheridan. It is this aesthetic literary quality that lies at the very base of his movies, and is amplified by his own terrific writing and sensibilities that is reflected in the finesse of his films.
Indraganti fully exploits the beauty of the Telugu language to bring out the humour by using dialogues involving a copious amount of word play. Every dialogue is pregnant with humour, and should not be missed by any account. It is also heartening to see the entire cast of the film take enunciation seriously . The bha, kha and gha are perfectly emphasised upon.
Impressively enough, the Telangana dialect is increasingly being used by the central characters in the movies. This makes “Ami Thumi” all the more relatable. The characters in “Ami Thumi” are loud – and yet, none of it feels over-the-top. Indraganti creates a world around the characters and aligns it according to the clashes they have against each other.
Therefore, it is not surprising to see Janardhan alter the lyrics of Telugu songs to poke fun at his rival’s impending downfall, or break into a dance every time he is delighted about something. However, beneath all the wit and humour, the director questions how arranged marriages are being reduced to mere monetary deals between families, with no regard for the approval of the prospective brides and grooms involved. We understand Deepika’s and Sri Chilipi’s predicament in the movie, all too well!
Full credit should go to all the actors who have brought an amazing sense of restraint and sophistication in the execution of their roles. Amidst all this, Vennela Kishore steals the show with his portrayal of Sri Chilipi. He brings a certain innocence to the role and evokes laughter just through his body language and the small twitches in his facial expressions. Eesha Rebba, who essays the role of Deepika, is feisty, confident and shows off her acting chops effortlessly. It helps that the ensemble male cast, comprising of Tanikella Bharani, Adivi Sesh, Srinivas Avasarala and Vennela Kishore, have all directed films in the past. It comes as no surprise that they have all translated Indraganti’s vision successfully on the screen.
“Ami Thumi” is a fine example of artistic brilliance. It shows how the aesthetics of literature and cinema can be reconciled to create a classy, evergreen movie. The comedy flows smoothly and never feels forced in any scene. Directors in Telugu cinema today, need to pick actors who submit to the story rather than writing stories that merely serve as vehicles to showcase an actor’s talent. In this regard, “Ami Thumi” is proof that a good script and directorial brilliance automatically extract the best from the actors.