I was surprised when I initially found out about this movie, partly because I had never heard of it beforehand, but also because Jagapathi Babu has been a part of some large blockbusters in recent years and it was intriguing to see him playing a major role in a small film for a change. This movie released near the end of 2015 and I’m disappointed that it hasn’t gained much attention because it has some of the best, most realistically developed characters and performances I’ve seen in recent Telugu cinema.
Katha, Screenplay, Darsakathvam
I don’t believe in spoiling the plot of a film before watching it. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and would like to know the plot, you can read more about it here.
The story of Hithudu is offbeat from most of the movies that the Telugu cinema industry has been producing recently, focusing on two main characters, Sita Ram (Jagapathi Babu) and Abhilasha (Meera Nandan), and the struggles they face as they try to pursue their dreams and help those around them. While the film does touch on a number of social issues, including the state of income disparity in developing nations and the decaying of ethics in modern society, it doesn’t seem like lecturing and that is mainly due to the development of the unique emotional connection that develops between Sita Ram and Abhilasha. Viplove did a fantastic job directing this film carefully and extracted impeccable performances from the cast; he is a director to watch and I’m excited to see what he will bring forth to the audiences next.
The screenplay of the film alternates between the present and the past, culminating with the point at which the flashbacks catch up to the present. The overall output is artistic, as it highlights the parallels that occurs in both time frames.
Sita Ram is arguably one of the best performances of Jagapathi Babu till date. The seasoned actor has been doing some powerful character roles in popular films recently but he plays one of the two main protagonists in this movie. In fact, the title Hithudu, which means “well-wisher”, is about his character. Sita Ram’s strong desire to improve society and mature thinking despite his lack of formal education reminds one of the famous philosophers from history, but he is also a man of action. In fact, his words of wisdom, strong moral compass and tendency to make the first move towards a good change are inspiring and his stubbornness and sensitivity make him an endearing and memorable character.
This is the first film I’ve seen with Meera Nandan, who primarily acts in Malayalam films, and I was amazed at how realistic her portrayal of Abhilasha was. This character goes through a major character arc throughout the film as she grows and learns to overcome the obstacles in her life and Meera Nandan showed all the details of this transformation masterfully. I’m looking forward to more of her in Telugu films as well.
Narasimha Rao plays an honest role of a good-natured, albeit impatient, postmaster in a village. His role is especially important during a moment in the second half of the film when Abhilasha feels lost and he does a good job.
Banerjee plays a good-natured naxalite leader who believes violence is the correct answer to the problems in society, but helps Sita Ram just the same as he tries to bring about change without violence. All the other actors in the film were adequate in accurately depicting their characters.
Koti hasn’t delivered many albums in the last couple of years but this film’s music is up to the mark. The songs are diverse and suite the overall mood of the film and the background music adds to the emotionally intense moments. Ananta Sriram has penned some meaningful lyrics for all of the songs. None of the songs really seem out of place and each one has something to add to the movie. I personally like the calming melody of Nagumomu.
Bharani K. Dharan is the cinematographer for this film and he does a fine job, especially when depicting the beauty of the rural areas during the flashback. Most of the visuals are realistic, matching the theme of the movie, and rely on some creativity to stay appealing (like eating the moon in the first song, etc.). I thought showing the flashbacks in color while keeping the present moments in black and white was a really effective and interesting artistic choice, as it heightened the effect of the climax.
I don’t like labeling films as “art films” as this implies that the film is not worth watching by regular people. Hithudu isn’t a commercial film but it is honest and inspiring with realistic characters and some amazing performances. It highlights some of the most pressing problems and troubling dichotomies that people from developing nations like India face and reminds us to stay true to our own moral compass, all while developing a touching relationship between the two lead actors, and is definitely worth watching.
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