Mahesh Babu’s opening scene in Brahmotsavam is followed by the ‘Madhuram Madhuram’ song, where he’s basically a demi-God. Clad in white, he takes long strides with an artificial grin on his face (for no reason). The shots are in slow motion, the chorus sings a keertana-like song; there’s a halo missing.
We are introduced to the family, a massive joint family, where everyone speaks in sugar. Given that the film is called Brahmotsavam, a festival is bound to spring up in the first ten minutes. It’s Mahesh Babu’s cousin’s mehendi. Normal Indian weddings limit games to antakshari and Dumb Charades. But this is the epitome of an ideal family. They play an absurd game called ‘Oka Manchi Maata’, where everyone must say something nice about someone in the family.
The celebrations don’t stop there. There is a mini dandiya session, an enactment of the Rama- Sita kalyanam. The family even breaks into song and dance while making avakaya pickles on the terrace. (Sooraj Barjatya, are you taking notes?)
In the middle of all this, Mahesh and Kajal meet. They like each other, and break into a tap dance in the middle of a market. The family then goes on a vacation, where (unsurprisingly) they dance some more.
Brahmotsavam is a story about familial love. But aside from the boisterous dancing, and the plethora of sugar-coated dialogues, there’s little to make us feel for this family. Sathyaraj, Mahesh’s father, says ‘Naluguru undali’ (There must be people by our side), and briefly talks about how beautiful life is with people around. That’s all the substance the film has for us.
The only normal person in the family (played brilliantly by Rao Ramesh) sparks off a sad event because he is consumed by jealousy, and the only good outcome of this is that the dancing stops.
But not for long. Enter Samantha, an overzealous, over-friendly woman, who is Mahesh’s sister’s friend. The sister lives in London. Oddly enough, even after a death in the family, this sister, who cries on Skype about how much she misses her family, but doesn’t actually visit. Anyway, Samantha manages to prolong her stay in this family, thanks to her people skills, and she and Mahesh embark on an impromptu road trip to North India, to find his roots across generations. Like having a family with the population of a small island wasn’t enough. 20 relatives later, the story reaches its high point in a scene where each relative praises Mahesh Babu. Wow!
The director, Srikanth Addala, started his career with Kotha Bangaru Lokam (2008), a youthful romantic story. Like its title, it was new, and left us smiling. His next, Seethamma Vaakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (2013), felt like a sermon on family values. But, thanks to its actors and the charming dialogues, it was watchable. Brahmotsavam though, is a vague movie where characters come and go, and the only constant is sugar. When Kajal walks into Mahesh’s life, and then walks out, coolly saying that she can’t take the pressure of belonging to this ideal family, we are with her. Whether they actually fell in love while tap dancing, we’ll never know.
Then, Samantha and Mahesh fall in love. How? Presumably over a hangover after the mandatory party-song. The only believable character is Rao Ramesh, a man riddled with insecurities and an inferiority complex. When he calls the family’s song and dance routine a humbug, we send him heartfelt thanks.
Curiously enough, Addala doesn’t give Mahesh Babu’s character a name. It was the same in SVSC. In fact, in Brahmotsavam, hardly any of the characters have a name.
The overly emotional scenes feel repulsive after a point, and the characters look like they’re trying too hard. Not only is the story of ‘love everyone’ stale (especially for Mahesh Babu) but the way the director dresses it up makes us wonder how he ever convinced the cast and producers to get on board. The answer is, of course, Mahesh Babu. And speaking of Mahesh Babu, isn’t it high time he did a film where he isn’t the ‘Prince’ with a heart of gold, but just a normal person with feelings like any other human being?
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