Born in the 90’s, I grew up watching many of Nagarjuna’s movies while he was still in his prime. Some of my favorites of his include Manmadhudu, Santhosam, and, more recently, Manam. Needless to say, I was excited about being able to watch Soggade Chinni Nayana while I was still in India earlier this year.

From the teaser and trailer, it was clear that Soggade Chinni Nayana would be a romantic entertainer with a village backdrop. The chemistry between Nagarjuna and Ramya Krishna was just as great as it had been during their prime years and the fact that the film was releasing during Sankranthi with an Anup Rubens soundtrack just heightened the expectations. This is why I was so surprised when I left the theater thoroughly unsatisfied.

Note: There will be spoilers in this post. To skip the spoilers, go to the final verdict.

Many reviews claim that Soggade Chinni Nayana is a perfect family entertainer. My biggest complaint against this is the fact that a majority of the movie is focused on the romance, or lack there of (I said spoilers, didn’t I?), between Ram (Nagarjuna) and Seetha (Lavanya Tripathi) post their decision to get a divorce.

Not Such a Great Family Entertainer

Now I won’t say that divorce and failing relationships should not fall under the category of family entertainment because that isn’t true. The 1996 film Letha Manasulu dealt with similar ideas while still delivering a film that was suitable for an audience of all ages. Soggade Chinni Nayana does not achieve this, mainly due to the characterization of Bangarraju (Nagarjuna), Ram’s father.

Bangarraju’s Character

In the nicest of terms, Bangarraju is a player. He flirts with any girl he sees and, for some odd reason, all girls seem to be perfectly okay with it. He is also very aggressive and solves his problems using either his charm or his brawn. While his main intentions are fair, like his love for his wife (Ramya Krishna) or his family, he has many character flaws that are not only brushed off, but even appreciated by the other characters in the movie.

How to Not Solve a Divorce Problem

The way Bangarraju approaches the divorce and attempts to solve it is a very low point in the movie for me. His first approach is to enter the body of Ram, which he can magically do (most of the magic in this film is taken for granted and not explained), and try to seduce Seetha. This is not only disturbing as the audience knows it’s Bangarraju in control of Ram’s body, it is also just a very bad solution. This couple is on the verge of a divorce; attempting to create immediate physical contact between the pair is ill advised without them resolving their issues beforehand because physical contact will not solve the root of the problem.

Bangarraju’s next solution is to get Ram drunk. This makes no sense and I think it only happened because the director couldn’t find a better place to slip in a song about getting drunk in the movie; a song which talks about Bangarraju hitting on girls and taking them to private places to do “dikku dikku dum dum” (honestly, where do they come up with these phrases?). How does this make Bangarraju appealing again?

Putting Bangarraju’s habits aside, I was also bothered by the advice that Satyabhama (Ramya Krishna) gives to Seetha in order to improve her marriage. The advice reminded me of a handbook that used to be given to housewives in the United States during the 60’s about how a woman should always smile when her husband is home and not hide her beauty in the bedroom. This advice is plain sexist. It is 2016. Women are equal to men and many women are working to pull their own weight. Why should a wife always smile when her husband is home? She isn’t a doll, she has her own emotions. Why should a wife not hide her beauty in the bedroom? She has every right to do what she wants with her body. I was disappointed that Seetha took in all of this advice as if it was perfectly normal.

During the second half of the film, Ram and Seetha’s marriage almost magically fixes itself and it’s hard to believe that it is because of anything that Bangarraju or Satyabhama did. Sure Bangarraju can enter Ram’s body, but he can’t change who Ram is. So what brought this change in Ram? It really doesn’t make any sense. The problem that Ram and Seetha really face is a lack of proper communication. They don’t know how to argue without raising the stakes all the way to a divorce and that’s what breaks their relationship. They need to talk more about how they feel and why they feel that way and be able to convey these emotions to each other in a harmless manner. Not one person mentioned any of this in the movie which made a majority of the movie seem hard to believe.

Was that Anushka? Why?

This movie also had one of the worst cameo’s I’ve ever seen. Anushka Shetty is a talented actress and I know she has a great rapport with Nagarjuna, but what did she really add to the movie? In my opinion, she just made Bangarraju’s character even more flawed as it was very strongly hinted that Bangarraju had had an affair with Anushka’s character before he died in the accident. Why is this okay? Why do we still talk about how great of a character Bangarraju is in this movie?

Imagine a Female Bangarraju

Imagine for one second if Bangarraju’s gender had been switched. If a girl had flirted with all the guys in the town, would she be celebrated for her charm and prowess with men? No, she would be called a slut and publicly disgraced. So how is it fair that we continue to fuel this sexism in our movies? What is the idea that we are giving to our children when we show them these films? What should they learn when we tell them that the guy that flirts with all the girls and beats up people in the street for catcalling, the guy that maintained an affair while still claiming to love his wife, is the hero? Should he be the role model for our kids?

What was Actually Good about the Movie

Putting everything else I said above aside and looking at the film from a pure entertainment perspective, it is still not up to the mark. There is a small comedy track with Brahmanandam that is spread throughout the film and is reminiscent of comedy scenes in other films. The romance between Bangarraju and Satyabhama is well developed. Small quirks, like the “Vassi vadi thassa dheeya” dialogue, stand out. The cinematography is well done by the fabulous P. S. Vinod and the actors did justice to their roles; Nagarjuna really brought the Bangarraju character to life but his portrayal of Ram as a hotshot doctor in the U.S. could have been more realistic. The songs suit the movie but are not very memorable; they remind you of previous songs that Anup Rubens has delivered, so there’s nothing fresh there.

The last thirty or so minutes of the film have the most entertainment, due to the suspense and mystical elements that are introduced. This is actually where the family sentiment really takes hold and you are left wishing there were more of this in the film.

Final Verdict

I have a lot of respect for Nagarjuna’s acting skills because he really made Bangarraju’s character seem heroic and relatable despite these obvious flaws. I also appreciate the director, Kalyan Krishna, for making the ending actually enjoyable, with strong family sentiment and exciting mystical snakes helping Nagarjuna. I wish the movie had more such moments and less of the subliminal sexist ideas. It is sad that this movie is being declared as Nagarjuna’s biggest commercial success because he has been a part of so many other amazing films that are simply incomparable to this one.

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nagarjuna, lavanya tripathi, ramya krishna, soggade chinni nayana, telugu, film review, Kalyan Krishna, Anup Rubens

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