It’s fascinating how cinema can create a world that reflects real situations and characters, and still be completely removed from reality. In Tirumala Kishore’s Aadavallu Meeku Johaarlu, misunderstandings between characters arise bizarrely, and members of the family then reconcile in an awe-inspiring way. Though these equations are melodramatic, the situations are pretty relatable.
The story follows Chiranjeevi (Sharwanand), a young man raised by five women: his mother Lakshmamma (Raadhika Sarathkumar), and her five sisters, Urvashi (Padmamma), Gouramma (Kalyani Natarajan), Sharadamma (Rajasri Nair), and Krishnamma (Satya Krishnan). As Padmamma, the closest aunt to Chiru puts it, he is like their own child. They get to decide all his life decisions including his bride. He misses out on many bridal prospects due to the smothering love of his mothers. So, Chiru decides to find his lady love on his own. Thus enters Aadhya (Rashmika Mandanna), a woman who Chiru meets on a chance encounter and later becomes a great friend to him. So what’s the conflict of the story? We wait for a tiresome long time for it to arrive.
Much of the initial portions of the film might seem needless to new eyes, but their importance is realised in retrospect. Though the reason behind the seemingly unnecessary initial scenes is established, they suffer from bland writing. There’s a progressive lapse of emotional beats in these formative portions. A couple of weirdly-placed songs also hinder the experience. This, however, isn’t the case for Mangalyam, which surprisingly introduces Sharwanand in a sobering manner.
The film makes up for all these flaws post-interval with the entrance of Vakula (Khushbu), Aadhya’s mother. The film restrains from becoming anything more than a family drama and the emotional beats start to work relatively better. Interestingly, Khushbu’s character is very similar to her character in the Tamil movie Minsara Kanna (1999)—a misandrist entrepreneur who runs an all-women workers factory—but it doesn’t help that the story continues to be in the Minsara Kanna space for a while. The lack of freshness and substance doesn’t really help. On the whole, the sudden variations in the emotional tonality become odd–while some scenes are bland and monotonous, some are straight out of TV soaps. How melodrama and comedy are interpolated might also hinder one’s experience.
This is unfortunate especially because Aadavallu Meeku Johaarlu has well-written characters, particularly Chiru. He comes across as a pampered, easygoing, happy-go-lucky chap who doesn’t let himself be bogged down by adversities. Even during the lowest of lows, he laughs. When one questions his behaviour, he says that he has reached a place beyond all despair. When confused, he vents his heart out to the sun, a celestial being. “People may not be there for you always and so I resort to talking with the wind, the skies, the sun, and the moon,” he says. A noteworthy idea is how both Chiru and his aunt Padmamma make similar mistakes, proving that he is after all her son in many ways. His quirky traits also make up to be good comedic relief, and nothing he says can be taken seriously. For instance, during a pressing conversation with Aadhya, he randomly blurts out the lyrics of Sada Kutta Kutta song.
Sharwanand, along with a brilliant Vennela Kishore, helps the story with brilliant comic timing. Their meeting with a don (played by P Ravi Shankar) is a laugh riot. Sharwanand, however, fails to maintain the highs at certain places and doesn’t justify the good characterisation. Rashmika, on the other hand, looks just like any of her other characters, and this is major due to the lack of depth in her character. For example, we never get to know what she feels about Chiru.
Though it is heartening to see actors like Urvashi, Khusbhu, and Raadhika pull off emotionally demanding scenes with extreme ease, the exaggerated melodrama in the dialogues and the inadequate screen space don’t help them make much impact. Despite all its drawbacks, Aadavallu Meeku Johaarlu left me wanting more family entertainers. If I were to remember the film in the future, it would be for how a potentially heartwarming family drama can turn into a middling affair due to the lack of a speckless screenplay.
Aadavallu Meeku Johaarlu
Cast: Sharwanand, Rashmika Mandanna, Raadhika Sarathkumar, Urvashi
Director: Kishore Tirumala