Some thoughts on Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum

[Spoilers here and there. And this post is a remarkably disjointed collection of thoughts which flitted through my mind whilst watching the movie]

Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum was on my Telugu film watch list right after I found out that the man behind the camera was Krish, the director of Vedam, a film which I really liked. But after some questionable choices of movies featuring (too many) heroes and villains screaming “Champestaanu raa!” in mellifluous duets to each other, I decided to take a break and in the process, forgot all about this movie, until now.

For a movie with the tiresome standard masala premise (hero thirsting for the blood of incredibly ruthless rich villain who has also killed hero’s parents), it makes for a quite an interesting watch because of the clever juxtaposition and usage of  stage drama and mythology with the film narrative.

For instance, the plot line mirrors the story of Sishupala and Krishna for the villain is later revealed to be the maternal uncle of the hero (Rana as the alliteratively annotated BTech Babu). Babu’s grandfather insists early on in the movie that he play Krishna in this play on stage. The significance of this request escapes the exasperated Babu only to hit him hard later on when he finds out the story of his past.

The parallel run with mythology continues till the end, when during the climax of the movie, Rana plays Narasimha on stage (complete with lion’s face and long nails)  and literally tries to rip the villain apart, making the long drawn fight quite gripping.

Two exceptionally brilliant scenes stood out for me.

The one right below, simply for its sheer wordplay.

In Telugu, the word for “dream” and “art” sound very similar (kala). Kota Srinivasa Rao (Babu’s grandfather) who plays an aged thespian in the movie delivers an impassioned plea ringing with the righteous anger of the true artist to his grandson who is all set to leave the unfulfilling life of a stage artist and move to more alluring pastures. When Babu protests that he has his own dreams (from the dialogues before, it is clear that by dreams he means a comfortable life), Kota Srinivasa Rao thunders

Adhi kala, nidhralo kanedhi. Idhi kaḷa, nidhara lepedhi

(That is a dream, which is seen in sleep. This is Art, which wakens you from sleep).

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The other really beautiful scene is when Babu realizes that art is not merely imitating life, rather his art is a slice of his life. The moment when he realizes that his grandfather whilst scripting the drama has in reality penned his life is the moment he truly respects his art. The characters he had earlier enacted so unconcernedly and the dialogues he had mouthed so casually now frighten him with their weighty meaning. And there is a very poetic explanation of what God is, amidst all this… “Devudu ante sahayam

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The film is not by any stretch perfect or anywhere near it, but by  simply running along side an ancient and oft-heard mythological story, it elevates itself from a ludicrous and tiresome masala movie to something more enjoyable, at least for me. Possibly because I’m a sucker for any nicely drawn analogy.

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