Ante Sundariniki: Lies and consequences
From the time Vivek Athreya’s third feature film, Ante Sundariniki, was announced, I was waiting for it to be released so that I could get the high emotion again after Brochevarevaru Ra. A sincere fan of Vivek’s work, I didn’t even see the trailer of the film so that it doesn’t spoil the theatrical experience.
But when the film was released, I was down with a fever! By the time I recovered, another film was playing in the same cinema hall (our town has only 3 theatres).
Disappointed then, I heard that the movie didn’t do well, and it was going to stream on Netflix. I watched it finally, in a single stretch, biting my nails and wiping my tears at many scenes due to the magical feel brought by Vivek Athreya again! ❤
Disclaimer: This blog post has many spoilers and images from the movie. Please proceed to read only if you’ve seen or want to know the sensibilities of Vivek Athreya :)
I’ll try this blog post in a new format by writing about the characters and how they drive the story forward.
- Sundar — a shy boy from an orthodox family who gets cheated once in his life, which changes his adulthood. He knows what his family accepts and what it doesn’t, so he comes up with a lie (okay, a series of lies until the truth is revealed). But but, Sundar is a nice, sensible, and soft boy who doesn’t stalk/harass girls he likes.
- Sundar’s Mother — a practical and progressive thinking woman married into a patriarchal family. She seeks happiness for his son, and her emotional scenes pay off in the end, bringing a change in the family. A logical thinker voiced down by her family.
- Sundar’s Father — a protective father who wants his son & successors to continue the legacy his father left. Does everything to silence his wife.
- Sundar’s Grandmother — an orthodox musician who uses her musical skills to express joy and her approval. Has knowledge of mythology stories and adds her perspective to them.
- Soumya garu — a colleague of Sundar who tries to help him fly to the states agreeing with Sundar’s plan of lying to their boss, Chandra Mohan. Her story becomes an essential subplot when Sundar’s lies come true.
- Chandra Mohan — boss of Sundar, played by our Harshavardhan. Has a good sense of humour and a couple of clients in the US. Thank you, Vivek Athreya, for casting him in two consecutive films. We love to see him perform.
- Joseph — wait, this is too quick for us to talk about him.
Oh, snap! What about Leela? Let me introduce the characters linearly 😅
- Leela — a forward-thinking and independent girl who wants recognition and never gives up. A fighter indeed! Asks Sundar twice whether they can get married ❤
- Pushpa — Leela’s elder sister who marries her lover and faces issues with her husband’s family about conceiving. Her story is quintessential to Leela & Sundar.
- Leela’s parents — two progressive thinkers who give freedom to their daughters. (I wonder why Nadhiya’s eyes seem like she cries a lot throughout the film). After getting humiliated due to his religion, her father starts preferring in-community things.
- Joseph (at least now?) — Will come to him, let me introduce Vamsi.
- Vamsi — Asks time to meet Leela’s father, but cheats on her (why bro??).
- Joseph — okay, an ardent one-sided lover of Leela, who leaves no stone unturned to marry her and is privy to her love story with Vamsi, and now, Sundar.
I didn’t talk about two short, but important characters will talk about them when the time comes.
The conflict this movie deals with is a rather cliched, inter-religion marriage. With the premise set, Vivek Athreya doesn’t delay immersing us into his non-linear writing structure, the shortened version we witnessed in Vagaladi song in BrochevarevaruRa.
Leela and Sundar try indirectly for acceptance from their families, but they understand that it won’t happen. Sundar resorts to lies and tries hard to convince Leela to proceed with the two lies.
Lies after lies, and Vivek makes sure the characters pay the price for convincing their families of lies and lies alone. Sundar kind of underestimates the consequences, but the reality has a different plan. His & Leela’s characters from childhood are written so well.
Landing in a bigger opportunity in childhood and finding out it’s fake hits him hard, which his classmates take advantage of to bully him.
After Upanayanam, he gets bullied in school, where his classmates draw a picture of him on the board! I felt this personal and can’t relate much to childhood Sundar owing to his craze towards Chiranjeevi and getting bullied by his classmates after Upanayanam (except my classmates didn’t draw my face on board).
He accepts his flaws about lies, about getting stuck in the past. In the scene where Sundar reveals everything to Leela’s parents in the hospital, he says, “Pregnancy is a choice but not a compulsion.”
See the camera focus shifting towards Pushpa, Leela’s sister. Pushpa’s tragic story of getting into a family that wants kids forces her to conceive, and ill-treating her during her first pregnancy led to her delivering a stillbirth. Not all love-stories translate to happy marriages.
Sundar’s mother character, played by Rohini garu, makes us emotional multiple times. She constantly cares for her son’s well-being and looks out for a solution in the ancient books. She asks the important questions, “Why did Sundar lie all the way?” and “We acting when we knew Sundar is infertile or are we acting now when we know Leela may not conceive?” (A similar confrontation scene is present in “Evvarikee Cheppoddu”)
Her character has a good set-up and pays off in a “getting tears” scene when she really feels proud of Sundar. A well-written character of a housewife in an orthodox family who can think logically and progressively by prioritizing her son’s well-being and fighting for it.
Okay, after that emotional discussion about Sundar’s future, I saw that Veena music coming! Expected that to happen 😆
The change (acceptance/arc) is subtly shown in the father roles. Sundar’s father renames the contact “T Garu” to “Thomas Garu”, and Leela’s father eats the sweet in Sundar’s home.
Sundar’s peak moment, apart from the emotional one, is this deleted scene. It has the character-defining moment when he realizes he needs to tell the truth and doesn’t want to fool people around. Please watch this:
The colour palette used for Sundar’s and Leela’s houses is contrasting, reflecting the orthodox and vintage vibes in Sundar’s home.
The writing is organic and finer that even the Mountain Dew scene is a fluke thought, and Sundar mentions that it may work, and they avoid the doubt there. Due to her medical condition of Leela, the urine test result is positive when Leela’s mother asks her to check once more. Entha Chithram song has a scene where Leela doesn’t eat the core of Samosa, and she eats it in the second half to vomit (bluffing her mother about vomiting during pregnancy).
Not writing about the school play that has Leela & Sundar’s introduction deliberately. It’s evident that the play is a meta to the movie.
Coming to Joseph’s character, people wish they don’t have Josephs in their lives. Aside from all the hatred and discomfort this character brought, I like two things about him:
- Asks an important question to Sundar — “How’s Leela’s life changed because of Sundar?” This applies to all relationships, in my humble opinion.
- Adores and respects Leela and wants her not to be blamed and disrespected.
The two short but important characters that I didn’t mention above: Jogarao, a greedy astrologist who cheats on Sundar’s family from the beginning. Just a phone call scene and his honesty brought a good feeling about him.
Another one is Sundar’s Babai, played by Pruthvi. His dialogues make us laugh, but he acts as a catalyst in making Sundar’s father accept the marriage proposal. Another essential but not a recognised scene.
Vivek has done a decent job in not making this movie another rom-com but making it an interesting screenplay with character arcs and connecting it to many households in our Telugu states.
Vivek Athreya — Thanks for making me cry, bite my nails, and cheer for the characters. You again made me emotional. Please please continue being honest and pure as you are! Will be waiting to celebrate your films.
Vivek Sagar — makes us laugh, cry, reflect on our lives, and brings good vibes. The music is as refreshing as walking inside a dense forest, hearing birds chirping, and water flowing in the early morning.
మీ సంగీతం మాకు హాయినిస్తుంది, మనస్సుని తేలిక చేస్తుంది.
Nani, Nazriya, and all artists lived in their characters. They took us into their world, made us laugh, cry, feel happy, and concluded the story.
The entire team of Ante Sundariniki worked outdoors during Covid to make a feel-good and entertaining movie. Glad that people are applauding the movie after watching it on Netflix.
I hope Vivek shares the screenplay of the film in the public domain 🤞.
Until next time, with my thoughts on another sensible movie…
Wait, it’s not over yet. Vivek Athreya’s three movies and Hasith Goli’s debut film have a similar structure/pattern. I’m writing something about it. Will publish it when I’m ready 😄
If you like this movie, consider watching April 1st Vidudhala by Vamsy. A good film on lies and consequences.