'Ante Sundaraniki', produced by Mythri Movie Makers, is currently playing in theatres.
Sundar Prasad (Nani) is in a fix when he falls in love with a Christian girl named Leela Thomas (Nazriya Nazim). He has known Leela since childhood. Sundar's father and grandmother are orthodox Brahmins. Leela's father is obsessed with his religious identity. So, Leela too dreads the mere thought of telling him about her love affair.
Left with no option, Sundar and Leela think of doing the unthinkable. They create two gigantic lies so that their parents forget religious differences and agree to their marriage. What are the lies? Can Sundar and Leela ever be in peace after telling those lies? What unforeseen situations arise after this? Answers to these questions are found in the second half.
Nani shows laudable competence in portraying the role of a youngster who is slightly agitated by religious orthodoxy and his lack of freedom. In the comedy scenes, he does overdo at times, but he shows finesse in the scenes where he gets emotional. This is his best performance since 'Jersey'.
Nazriya's versatility has been milked by the director in a veritable manner. Her performance in delicate moments is sensitive. VK Naresh recently claimed that he is a method actor who behaves like the character he is playing. This may not be his career-best performance but he definitely shows immense promise. Rohini doesn't behave like how a Thulasi or Hema would have in similar scenes.
Harshavardhan's dialogue delivery and comic timing are spot-on. Anupama Parameswaran's extended cameo is good. Rahul Ramakrishna is limited to a scene. Srikanth Iyengar plays a manipulative religious person.
Vivek Sagar's music is no far cry from his previous works. The music here is blended with the mood; they may not work in isolation, though. The background music lightens the flavour of the film without undermining the seriousness of the subject.
Niketh Bommi's cinematography is solid, lending the film a veneer of authenticity. Raviteja Girijala's art direction is a plus. Many of you might complain that the run-time is way too long, but when Bollywood remakes this film (expect it to happen), the run-time might be no less.
'Ante Sundaraniki' toys with questions like what happens when a child's dream is broken before he takes wings. It also tells us how a child's attitude is affected when she doesn't get what she deserves. Writer-director Vivek Athreya pens a remarkably unusual first half that way.
The first 30 minutes (roughly) draw the audience into the genesis of Sundar Prasad's thinking. The second 30 minutes (roughly) introduce the audience to Leela's metamorphosis from a failed child to a promising photographer and how a tragic incident in the family threatens to affect her choices and happiness.
In more ways than one, 'AS' is not a routine love story or a comedy film. It goes beyond the genre and evolves into something better as the story progresses. At times, Sundar and Leela's decision to tell two of the biggest conceivable lies does seem far-fetched. But, by the time the climax arrives, everything looks organic.
This is one film where two lovers and their elders (five in number) have a role in the story. Nowhere do they speak too much or too boringly. There are no cliches after a point.
Vivek Athreya's 'Brochevarevarura' was more of a crime comedy than a coming-of-age story. 'AS' operates at a deeper level in comparison. In the former, Nivetha Thomas' character makes peace with her father eventually after the latter realizes his flaws. In the present film, the layers are as many as the characters.
It is impossible to do full justice to the depth of writing without revealing the two lies that Sundar and Leela conjure up. Yet, revealing them would be a major spoiler.
'Ante Sundaraniki' is one of the most sincerely written family films in recent times. Don't expect laughs aplenty. Expect some sensible writing and a love story that takes unexpected turns.