Mithunam is a one-of-its-kind film. At one point, it seems very earthy; and at another, it feels beautifully surreal. It is uplifting now, heart-tugging now, mature now, innocent now, unpretentious now, poetic now, simple (but not plain) now.
This Tanikella Bharani film is enjoyable for its lively moments as well as its irreverent language. If its cerebral form of entertainment apparently seems to be meant for the discerning, its soul is in the very ordinary feel that that little and anonymous lives of Appa Rao and Butchi exude.
The film has only two characters but they are everything - they mirror the innocence of ageing parents, and the narrative is suffused with umpteen scenes that reflect the everydayness of living in the evening of the lives of two self-contented couple. There is so much religion in the language of the dialogues, the thinking of the couple itself is a throwback to the ideal husband-wife relationship profusely extolled in the literature written by modern-day writers who have one part of the head in the realm of the Vanaprastha ideology and another half of the head in the philosophy of the hedonist.
SP Balasubramanyam, the old husband, has a supreme taste for all kinds of delicious dishes dished out with never-dying enthusiasm by his best half, played by Lakshmi. He has a religious bent of mind, is utterly positive, a child at heart, has no complaints or regrets. Butchi too has a religious mind; she is an epitome of a loving wife, whose heart yearns to spend time with their grown-up offspring who have been in America. Secretly speaking over the mobile, she chides his grandson who wishes to make a cartoon film on his Appadam tatayya.
Every now and then, she talks about one Meenakshi, who she doesn't know has lost her husband, in her conversations with SPB. The day when she comes to know that SPB has been monetarily helping Meenakshi in her distress, she joins hands in reverence, saying to herself about her husband, "Manishi ga puttadam sulabhame. Manishi ga jeevinchadame kashtam," as SPB is shown relishing in the company of Mother Nature.
There are many emotional scenes in this 155-minutes-long film that move the old to happy tears and the young to be inspired by the companions. For those uninitiated in the depth of Telugu, the language would be found to be esoteric at some places.
Tanikella shows his deft as a director with a rare sensitivity and a sensible writer with a flair for irreverence. He doesn't romanticize old age love or project a utopian couple as the idea. His characters are very much human, they live little lives, the husband is hurt that his wife keeps regretting that her parents did not marry her off to the owner of a grapevine yard, only to be told on a pleasant evening that the story is fictitious.
Mithunam may not be an example of great writing, but there is not a moment when the film seems artificial. Even a Mani Ratnam or an Anurag Kashyap (the likes of who think that learning never ceases) might feel lucky to watch the best moments of the film and take some lessons home.
The best asset of Mithunam is the healthy thinking that SPB and Lakshmi reflect. SPB is not a bit emotionally dependent on his children. He relishes his daily coffee (he goes, as his wife puts it, into a state of Samadhi for one hour every day after he has a cup of it), enjoys the company of his cows, does little if any philosophizing about life, is unabashedly a lover of tasty food made by his wife, and every time he says 'Adbuthaha', he looks so very much a cool samsari living life full size.
Lakshmi is not the ideal Bharatiya wife (but who cares?) for the one and only reason because she plays pranks with his husband. She has been fooling him for decades about the grapevine yard 'sambadham' she had missed, she does not feel obliged to serve her husband all the unhealthy stuff his taste buds yearn for. Watch out for her dialogues in the last scene, they are sure to melt many a hearts.
A class act from both SPB and Lakshmi, Mithunam stands out for its freshness, excellent dialogues, subtly soothing music and the heart-felt moments throughout.
A must watch, indeed.