Gandhi had wished for a society in which even animals would be treated with dignity, but our society is so pervasively violent and cruel that one would wish to become permanently tone-deaf if only to escape the helpless cries of the oppressed and the brutalised.
'Minugurulu' is definitely not a film that is tailored to play to the gallery; its sensibilities remind one of high-brow cinema. (One recent film made by a Telugu man that matches the greatness of Minugurulu, is Raj Madiraju's 'Rishi'. Tanikella Bharani's 'Mithunam' is high-brow yes, but its sensibilities are different). No wonder that the movie was the first Telugu film to compete in the 'competition live action' category at the recently held 18th International Children's Film Festival in Hyderabad.
Directed by Ayodhyakumar Krishnamsetty, this film tells the story of the hapless and harassed blind inmates of an orphanage. Raju (Srinivas of Golkonda High School fame) is the new inmate, nurturing a wound against his father. He is a rebel who is raging inside, burning with passion to do something, whereas for the rest of the inmates, he is just another blind boy who must resign himself to the fate of living under a tyrannical secretary (played by Ashish Vidhyarthi).
The directorial touch is brilliant and unique from the word go, so much so, 'Minugurulu' reminds us of the finesse of a few internationally-acclaimed films. The children long for small pleasures, which are denied to them by the heartless secretary and his mistress. Their curiosity is killed mercilessly.
They squat on the floor to eat inadequate meals, share some light-veined moments and pray, only to find that the upma they are forced to eat is unfit for consumption. The creative boy amongst them spontaneously produces a short kavithvam to lukewarm response from his fellow inmates. The next scene introduces us to the school master (played by Raghubir Yadav of Lagaan and Peepli Live fame), also a blind person, who, to start with, seems to inspire optimism in them, only to preach them that revelling in disability doesn't make sense, for, he tells them bluntly, 'Sarvendriyanam nayanam pradhanam.'
In the midst of squalor and sad lives, Raju tries to find a way out. The boy who always wanted to be a filmmaker before he became blind can't be a slave who has to be at the mercy of a corrupted human being. The director portrays the underlying emotions of the children and the inner churning in Raju with dexterous sublimity.
Since it is presented by Dasari Narayana Rao, do not expect Raju to be thinking like a potential Comrade or Anna. No. Raju doesn't want to be a saviour. At one point of time, he tries to stage an escape, and quite in a K Balachandar-esque accident, he is stopped (as if by a divine coincidence that is typical of K Vishwanath's films) by Myna's (newcomer Rushini) rendering of a poetic song. Taking small steps to the forlorn singer, he strikes a partnership that would change the fate of the inmates forever.
The director conveys emotions that can tug at your heartstrings without much effort. To start with, we are shown that a blind boy is talking to his unspeaking mother on phone, only to be told by the villain that the phone has been dead for 3 days. Combined with a high-class BGM, the scene, like some other parts of the film, haunt you.
The villainy of Vidhyarthi is not new. What's is remarkable is the way the director portrays his cruelty and fallen morality.
The scene where Raju discovers the source of the leaking water stands out for its ability to sensitise us to what all administrative indifference leads to. Apathy and corruption means hell for the downtrodden and this film speaks to these twin ills rather unintentionally.
Some of the dialogues (co-written by the director himself) are so meaningful. Like the other artistic aspects, the dialogue is the film's raison d' etre.
The lyrics are another high point.
The performances are all fine. The best one was by Master Srinivas. Rushini's is enjoyable, just as the others'. Vidhyarthi is subtly sadistic as ever. Suhasini's cameo is good.
Technically, the film is impeccable. Be it the cinematography or the BGM, it is a mellowed film for the mature audience.
Verdict: A masterpiece in its own right.