White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time


Kannada Movie Review: Sapta Sagaradaache Ello (Side A) feels like the beginning of something big for the classical romantic drama

Rakshit Shetty and Rukmini Vasanth star in Hemanth M. Rao's "Sapta Sagaradaache Ello (Side A)," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

With the tragic romance seemingly deemed out-of-vogue by Hollywood and Bollywood alike, Sapta Sagaradaache Ello (Side A) stands a powerful announcement that the Kannada film industry may be here to fill the void. There’s a certain classical timelessness to the movie’s approach to romantic storytelling that registers as a feeling, right from the start. We’re introduced to the focal couple in the midst of a squabble that only goes on to underscore the way they perfectly complement each other. But there’s also a deep foreboding: as Manu (Rakshit Shetty) speeds down the road in his employer’s expensive Mercedes while Priya (Rukmini Vasanth) begs him to slow down – think of how many years of salary he would owe if he totaled the vehicle! – we know in our bones that this trip is headed towards an ominous destination. There’s a lump in our throat well before we even know why.

But the movie also departs from tradition where it counts. In the early going, we’re spared the long-winded and conventional romantic backstory in favor of smaller, tenderer moments that bring us into the relationship. There’s no meet-cute, no quirky foreplay – just human glimpses of a young couple navigating an authentic (albeit still cinematically heightened) lower-middle-class reality. It’s hard not to get invested in the two of them early on (even as he makes some classically bad decisions). Manu works as a driver for a wealthy family, while Priya is in her final year of school but fantasizes about becoming a famous singer. Shopping for an apartment, they one day decide to pose as a much more well-to-do couple and tour a lavish penthouse, lingering on the balcony together and dreaming of a prosperous future. She yearns to one day have the means to buy a home by the sea, where she grew up, but she’s also perfectly content with the more modest life that they’re building.

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White Guy Watches Bollywood: An Introduction

White Guy Watches Bollywood: Seeing "Pathaan" at the Cinemark 18 at Howard Hughes Promenade in Los Angeles
White Guy Watches Bollywood: Seeing “Pathaan” at the Cinemark 18 at Howard Hughes Promenade in Los Angeles.

By nearly anyone’s definition, I’m a highly avid moviegoer. I see around 150-200 movies in theaters over the course of an average year; occasionally, I make it north of 250. This pales in comparison to my totals during college and graduate school, but my 34-year-old body can’t handle more than three theatrical viewings in a row, which used to be somewhat commonplace for me on the weekends. I subscribe to AMC A-List, Regal Unlimited, and MoviePass, because my moviegoing can’t be contained to just one chain or another. I see movies of all budget levels, genres, and languages. But even I have a big, notable blind spot at the multiplex, shared by many other frequent moviegoers: Indian cinema.

Two events last year really convinced me that I needed to be paying a lot more attention to all of the Indian films being released theatrically in the U.S. (and across other formats, but theaters are a good, reasonably contained starting point).

The first event was the smashing success of S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR among American cinephiles. Here was a Tollywood movie that made countless year-end Top 10 lists among critics and fanatical moviegoers alike (mine included), thanks in no small part to the enterprising support of Dylan Marchetti and Variance Films. And yet, a little more than a year after its initial release, RRR already seems like more of a one-off phenomenon than an attention-generator for future Indian cinema among American audiences. Surely, there must be more for us to savor.

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