Oka Manasu marks the widely acknowledged debut of Niharika Konidela and is Naga Shourya’s latest release after the success of Kalyana Vaibhogame. Other than its lead pair, however, Oka Manasu hasn’t really offered much to hype. That’s alright though, because the film isn’t very commercial and it doesn’t pretend to be either.
Katha, Screenplay, Darsakathvam
Like this title says, Oka Manasu is more of an exploratory musical, in which the characters face desires that don’t lie within their best interests and make decisions based on their beliefs. While their parents and friends try to act as voices of reason, the lead pair struggle between staying true to their feelings and giving into the pressures and responsibilities of their separate lives. Certain parts of the film aren’t very logical; for example, Sandhya (played by Niharika) doesn’t really strike us as a girl who’s been through medical school and it’s hard for us to really understand what she sees in Surya (Naga Shourya). This lack of reasoning is just one of those things that comes hand-in-hand with love at first sight films, though, so it is not just unique to this movie.
Oka Manasu isn’t the first film to portray a tale of forbidden or ill-fated love and it certainly won’t be the last. The reality of the story is debatable and thought the director seems to know what he wants, he only succeeds to an extent. There are plenty of trivial characters and scenes mixed into the romantic drama that makes up the majority of the slow paced film, making the experience a bit taxing, but the overall feel of the cinema is artistic.
With every film, Naga Shourya seems to be improving his skills and he fits perfectly into his role as Surya, a young, aspiring politician who struggles between the love for his father and for his girl. He has great chemistry alongside Niharika, which is critical considering the genre and focus of the movie.
Considering the small scope that the Telugu cinema industry provides for heroines, this was a pretty decent choice for Niharika’s debut as it gives ample screen space and opportunities for her to learn. Oka Manasu isn’t one sided, but the love story does originate from Niharika’s point-of-view, which is an interesting departure from the routine. While I wasn’t sure if she would be able to carry her role in the film initially, by the end of the film, I found myself adequately engaged with her portrayal of Sandhya. While there is room for improvement, it’s a good start and I’m interested in her future projects. It will be hard for her to find films that let her develop her talents further and with greater variety, considering most commercial films don’t provide much opportunity for the female protagonists.
Rao Ramesh and Pragathi have a decent amount of screen space as Surya’s father and Sandhya’s mother respectively, and they make sure their presence is worthwhile. Srinivas Avasarala’s role is necessary but doesn’t really create much of an impact. Vennela Kishore’s role is very small but does provide some minimal comic relief. Krishna Bhagavan’s character is absolutely unnecessary and the scenes involving him provide some commentary on the state of politics but seem really out of place, disturbing the flow of the film.
While known as a talented singer, Sunil Kashyap is an underrated music director in Telugu. He’s provided some fresh melodies and mass songs in his previous films like It’s My Love Story and Loafer, showing his versatility, but with Oka Manasu he proves his prowess in producing a quality album of melodies. While the songs are all slow paced, they fit the flow of the film perfectly. It’s hard to imagine this film without the music, which is why it isn’t for everyone.
It was hard to find the cinematographer of this film, but whoever it was did a wonderful job. Each scene and song is pleasant to the eye and the visuals paired with the music help really elevate this film from what would otherwise be a very plain and boring drama. There is a scene in the film where all of the locations are visited again in a rapid succession and the only reason this scene has any impact is because of the value that these visuals provide in creating a connection with the audience.
Oka Manasu is one of those films that just tells a story. There are no forced opinions or righteous characters; they’re all just dealing with life as it goes and trying to follow their hearts. In this sense, the heart of Oka Manasu is in the right direction. The problem is that, like the characters and the plot, the film itself is a messy. It’s artistic, like a beautifully depicted romance poem, but it doesn’t worry much about realism or logic. Therefore, like hopeless romance novels or thought-provoking poetry that drags, it might appeal to a select few but is certainly not for everyone.
There are adults who will be bored from the pacing of this film, so there’s not much that kids can find of value here. There are also some acts of physical violence and alcohol and smoking addictions.
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