At a time when crass commercial movies are made almost out of an assembly line, to attempt a film like Sri Ramadasu calls for strong conviction and courage. And to have pulled it off is indeed a creditable achievement.
The team of Raghavendra Rao, M M Keeravani, Bharavi and Nagarjuna have managed to repeat the success of Annamaiya. At another level, the film is important in letting the younger generation know of our rich tradition of bhakthi music and how Hindu religion is so open accommodative and does not involve in competitive populism.
Sri Ramadasu is also a personal triumph for Nagarjuna and Keeravani. The two have done amazing work.
Sri Ramadasu is not exactly a biopic as was originally thought. The director and the script writer have made adroit interpretations to come up with an agreeable canvas in which Keeravani and Nags have simply given colour to their vivid imagination.
The story is simple. It revolves around Gopanna, the eponymous Ramadasu (Nagarjuna). He is married to Kamala (Sneha) and leads a contended life. Gopanna is an tahsildar in the kingdom of Tanisha (Nasser).
Gopanna comes across Damakka (Sujatha) who is devotion personified to Lord Rama. Gopanna is also quickly pulled into this wave of devotion. He vows to build a temple for Ram. He goes to the people and solicits funds for the temple and eventually builds one with the help of Kabir (ANR).
But trouble comes in the manner of the evil Mate Saheb (JP Reddy), the devious brother in law of Tanisha. He convinces the king that Gopanna has misappropriated funds of the kingdom. So Gopanna is jailed. How Tanisha realizes his mistake and understands the sanctity of Gopanna, who by then is anointed Sri Ramadasu, is the story.
Nagarjuna is a revelation in a role that calls for nuances and skill. It is no romp for him. He has put in hard labor both in terms of looks as well as body language. The triumph of this role lies in the fact that Nags got the subtleties right. An award is just round the corner for him.
Sneha as the comely wife fits the bill aptly. She, with her doe-like eyes, is the perfect choice for the role. Sujatha as Damakka is also very inspirational. Devotion comes to her eyes ever so naturally.
ANR, as Kabir, is a big strength to the movie. His natural flair comes through in this pivotal character.
Suman as Lord Rama, Sameer as Lord Lakshmana, Veda (Archana) as Sita, Nagababu as Ravana also pass muster. Nasser and JP Reddy perform adequately.
J K Bharavi deserves special mention for his extensive research and getting the language and dialect right. It adds value to the realistic nature of the movie. The dialogues (in Sanskrit and Telugu) are a major asset.
Keeravani in a sense is the other hero of the movie. There are 19 songs, each dipped in his own devotion to his art. Like in Annamaiya, he has delivered more than he has been asked for. His songs create the right mood and momentum for the film to proceed. The bhakti rasa is splendidly brought out.
Raghavendra Rao by getting the basics right has pulled off the impossible. he has shown that there is place for such movies in our mainstream.
Some may say the production values to be tacky or cheesy. But that will be quibbling too much. A splendid effort, indeed.