Oh My Friend

Actors: Siddharth, Shruti Hassan, Navdeep, Hansika Motwani, Tanikella Bharani
Genre: Romance/ Drama
Rating: 2.5/5

Oscar Wilde once said “Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.” This is widely considered true, but the plot of this film, penned by Venu Sriram is based completely against this tenet. Chandu and Siri are childhood friends who go on to find partners Ritu and Uday respectively. But Ritu and Uday are flabbergasted by  Siri and Chandu’s friendship, their transparency and that they are priority to each other. The story is overall about misunderstandings and reconciliations.

Siddharth hasn’t aged at all in the last decade and this helps him look and play Chandu with a lot of ease. Youthful charisma intact, his mannerisms and language (as a 25 year old may be) are very today, and given his flair for reel emotional outbursts and romance, matches expectations. Siddharth may not have had to do any homework for this role, but learning to hold and play the guitar better would have helped (a la Rockstar’s Ranbir Kapoor) push his dominance. Shruti Hassan plays Siri, and has shown considerable improvement from AOD in emoting and using body language to accentuate her importance in a scene. Her plusses would be her non-native charm, her unconventional looks (remindful of her mom Sarika), her dancing ability, and her singing (yes she was the female voice in the Sri Chaitanya song). All her negatives must bow down to her intermittent hamming in the Telangana accent and the occassional ‘samputha bidda’ which just don’t connect with the audiences.

Hansika Motwani plays Ritu, and Chandu’s romantic interest. Hansika has grown horizontally considerably and any GreatAndhra-ish adjectives don’t hold true. Ritu is a sidelined character in Chandu’s life, playing second fiddle to a more important character Siri. Hansika is given considerably less screen time and is expected to show her frustration over Chandu prioritizing Siri, and Haniska does not pass the litmus test, with various reasons to blame including direction. If it worsens the case anymore Hansika does not look eye candy either. Navdeep has a stronger screen presence than Siddharth. There. I said it. Expected to play second fiddle to Chandu, Navdeep as Uday does a good job of convincingly raising questions, displaying possessiveness, and playing well the guy you almost want to hate. Tanikella Bharani plays Chandu’s abrasive dad (who is but nice to others), runs a middle-class family, and is broad minded towards relationships. This character unfolds gradually to show one shade after another, and nothing negative. The character is very relatable and Tanikella is a perfect fit.

Nothing about the film spells it is the brainchild of a debutante, that of Director Venu Sriram. This type of plot is not novel, but the treatment of detail along with the screenplay, also by Venu, is what sets this film apart. The progression of the plot is very predictable. Venu is able to extract decent performances overall and use ordinary story elements and almost no props to weave a story replete with many nuances, not all of them boring. If there could be any improvement, it would be depth in character/role development within the plot, without which the screenplay also could take a beating, and it does. Friendships and relationships established, there is not much to extrapolate. So to the common viewer, the screenplay would seem circuitous, slow and unnecessarily dragging. The abrupt pre-climax helps to raise viewer curiosity but the climax is not poignant enough to impress.

Cinematography by Vijay Ckakravarthy, coupled with production values of Dil Raju’s enterprise is meritorious. Close ups are definitely better shot and much better in quality in comparison to scenes with all four characters. Shots of the city roads are not very convincing and easily identifiable as being from a film set. The art direction is nothing ornate but Vijay has made use of locations like a middle class home, a school, a bookstore, Hyderabad flyovers, parks, and especially the resort in Kerala. If anything, Vijay could be better at shooting Chandu’s on stage performances, where he could also capture the crowds better. Too much focus on Chandu when it’s actually a band competition spoils the purpose of the scene.

Why 2.5/5:
If you can ignore flaws like Chandu’s random split-second decision leading to a preclimax when Uday refuses to marry Siri, or Chandu being asked to join a band as a lead guitarist but he quickly also becomes the lead singer(?!), or Chandu playing an acoustic guitar when the music is that of an electric guitar, etc.; you may not question other issues with the plot or its progression either. The plusses in the movie are performances of the actors and Venu’s ability to build a house of cards, but then again. The negatives are not really so, as much it is about lack of experience in direction, screenplay and cinematography. The movie underscores man-woman friendship, and is worth pondering about.


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