After Geetha Govindam, I was eagerly looking forward to Dear Comrade (watch on Amazon Prime), another movie with the same leads – Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna. Geetha Govindam, is a good watch thanks to brilliant acting of these leads who seem to feed off each other’s energy on sets and give their best. And boy, I wasn’t disappointed. In Dear Comrade, the chemistry between the leads is absolutely sizzling.

30 minutes into the movie, the entire movie’s premise is explained by Bobby’s (Vijay) Grandfather (Charu Hassan) to Lilly (Rashmika).  She goes asking what ‘comrade’ means and he explains , “you should fight for your right… for that, you need to ask courageously… for that you may need to face any problems… the one who follows you in your path and helps you achieve this, is your comrade.” Notice that “you” in is three sentences and “the one who follows you” gets only one? If only this movie spent enough time developing Lilly’s story. If only…

The story is pretty interesting. Bobby falls in love with Lilly who is visiting her cousin sister. The feeling is mutual, but just as it is about to take the next step, it is cut short by Lilly due to Bobby’s anger issues and they separate. Their path’s cross again, a few years later by which time Bobby has sobered down and Lilly is a mental wreck. Unbeknownst to Bobby, Lilly is in this state because of the abuse she has to face from a selector while she is trying to make her way to the women’s national cricket team. The anger in Bobby returns, but this time, he channels it to get Lilly face her demons and expose the abuser. It ends with Bobby supporting Lilly re-chase her cricketing dreams.

On paper, the story is extremely strong. To add to that, the technical aspects of the film are pitch perfect. The screenplay, cinematography, dialogues, dubbing, songs, music including background music, acting, costume design, editing and directing – all are pitch perfect. This is evident in the first few shots itself – the multiple camera angles, the background dialogues, inter cutting between the characters in the scene, the dresses they wear tell you the amount of detailing that has gone into the movie. And, by the time the initial titles roll, I was eagerly looking forward to what was to come.

But, the only problem is that the movie doesn’t do enough justice to Lilly’s story and instead sings paeans to how Bobby selflessly helps others. The character arc of the hero is extremely well detailed and consumes a large part of the 170 minutes. Every thing he goes on to do towards the end is explained in the first half and the initial sequences. On first watch, you feel that the entire communism, student union part from the first 20-30 minutes is a force fit, till you near the ending to realise that all along, it was a ploy to build the hero’s character arc. If 10-15 minutes were snipped off from detailing the hero’s character arc and devoted to the heroin’s instead, I am sure the film would have done much better at the box office and at the award shows. Lilly has a big transformation in character – from being a cheerful youngster, pulling Bobby’s leg at any given instance and who wants to show her might, to a meek and submissive follower by the second half. 30 minutes before the ending she cries, “Did I tell you I was having a problem? All of you are the same… All of you asked me whatever you want. Did anyone even bother to ask me what I want?”  This was one of the many places, I wanted to know more about why Lilly is the way she is, but it was not to come.

What let’s down the film are ultimately these extra minutes spent building the character arc of the hero. The angry lover story, unnecessary fight scenes, the references to Marxism… And, if you don’t follow the movie closely, it feels like 3 different stories. The director, Bharat Kamma in a pre release event, states that he had to wait 3 years  – the story was narrated to Vijay Devarakonda before Pelli Choopulu released and he had some doubts after Arjun Reddy became such a huge hit. The movie was originally titled ‘Dear Lilly’ but it clearly looks like he had to fiddle with the original story being enamored by and due to Vijay  Devarakonda and the big ticket producers.

…if only, he hadn’t done that and kept his ‘Dear Lilly’ story intact, it would probably have had a greater impact.

I believe, Karan Johar acquired the rights of producing a Hindi remake of the film. I hope he doesn’t fiddle more with this story.