Ante Sundaraniki Movie Review| Just for a few laughs

The film touches on the concept of interfaith romance and delivers an important message and also tells a sensitive story, all within a typical commercial format.
A still from the movie. (File Photo)
A still from the movie. (File Photo)

The story of Ante Sundaraniki revolves around two conflicting worlds — that of Kasthuri Poorna Venkata Sesha Sai Pavana Rama Sundara Prasad aka Sundar (Nani), who was born into a traditional yet superstitious Brahmin household, and Leela Thomas (Nazriya Nazim Fahadh), a photographer belonging to an orthodox Christian family. How these individuals cross paths and leave no stone unturned to make their love work is the essence of Ante Sundaraniki.

The film touches on the concept of interfaith romance and delivers an important message and also tells a sensitive story, all within a typical commercial format. The story has a lot of familiar prejudices — a Brahmin family will not allow their children to cross the seas to foreign lands and they don’t allow any others to even enter their household. Similarly, a Christian man abstains from eating food shared by others and only visits hospitals run by his community. These inclinations make for an interesting movie pitch, but Ante Sundaraniki, directed by Vivek Athreya, is a boring case of a promising premise that doesn’t fully fructify into a compelling film.

The first half in particular doesn’t take off and tests your patience like anything. The second half, however, is the soul. Post-intermission, the film coasts along nicely while focusing on the conflict between Sundar and Leela. The film urges us to introspect, it makes us look at people differently and not strong-arm our children in the name of religious beliefs.

The film may look funny at first, but as it progresses, it feels all too familiar. A scene after scene, stereotype after stereotype, what becomes evident is the absence of a real dramatic conflict. At times sluggish-paced and repetitive, it takes its own sweet time to unfold the actual story. It also rushes through Sundar’s whole negotiation process in the end, a portion where a little more emotion, patience, and detail might have helped.

Major hiccups arise when the couple begins to treat their conflict as a sort of mission and go through several ordeals to accomplish it. A shrewdly orchestrated hotel meeting between the families of Sundar and Leela ends nicely. These portions are handled with appropriate lightness, and the actors share comfortable chemistry as they get mawkishly sentimental when they discuss ways to get their children married.

However, you may get tired and bored, and you really wish they would get on with it, when Sundar and Leela end up in a problem, even after the former’s parents won over the latter (in a scene where his parents help the pregnant sister of Leela), and despite her parents have finally warmed up to her man.

What works are random moments of wit that the film needed more? There’s one scene that I feel is the most important in the film — the one in which Sundar explains to Thomas (Azagham Perumal) why he staged a drama to get married to Leela, and also confesses that he would have lived in guilt had the latter not slapped him for messing up things — it’s a poignant and delicate scene because Sundar is truthful, comforting and hopeful. It also works because it’s performed instinctively by Nani and Perumal. Vivek Athreya scripts a smart in-joke into a scene where Sundar is being coerced by his conservative father (Naresh VK) to follow his superstitious beliefs.

There is no doubt that humour works better than emotion in Ante Sundaraniki, but Vivek Athreya does make room to raise pertinent questions about whether parents can truly understand the value of love and empathise with what their children go through with regard to a relationship. It asks us to ponder the meaning of what makes a human. These are progressive concepts, and they are in conflict with the film’s otherwise conservative outlook.

Nani and Nazriya stay sincere and committed to their characters. The heart of the film lies in their characterisations. Nani, undoubtedly, is in top form serving up a reminder of how funny he can be in a role that he would perfectly fit into. There isn’t much drama and emotion expected from Nazriya, but she matches the comic-timing of her co-star without any difficulty.

Despite the stereotypical characterisation, Rohini, Nadhiya, Azhagam Perumal and Aruna Bhikshu nicely fill out their parts, although they have far less to do than Naresh, who is deliciously rude as Sundar’s superstitious father. Anupama Parameswaran and Harsha Vardhan chime in well, while Rahul Ramakrishna, Prudhvi and Srikanth Iyengar, too, make their presence felt in supporting roles.

Vivek Sagar’s songs and background score don’t make an impact. Had a song or two clicked, the fate of the film would have been far better. Ravi Teja Girijala’s editing could have been handled well and at least 15-20 minutes of the film could have been trimmed. Parental opposition is one of the oldest conflicts as far as interfaith romances go. Although repetitive, the cultural conflict here gives us some genuine laughs. But at 2 hours and 56 minutes, Ante Sundaraniki is a long, indulgent film that wears you out.

Overall, Ante Sundaraniki is a decent attempt that tells a simple love story in an entertaining way. The film has some good moments, some genuinely funny lines and first-rate performances. Compared to the recent rom-com, this film is worth giving a shot.

Ante Sundaraniki

Cast: Nani, Nazriya Nazim Fahadh, Naresh VK, Rohini
Director: Vivek Athreya

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