Varsham?! Where have you been all my life?! I feel as if I’m emerging from Plato’s cave having only before seen shadows of what proper masala is supposed to look like.
Varsham is a tour-de-force of romance, family drama, dishoom-dishoom, songs, more songs, evil villains, and dripping wet saris.
The story loosely parallels the story of Ram, Ravan, and Sita from the Ramayana, which I will assume we are all familiar with.
Directed by Sobhan, who sadly passed away in 2008, Varsham starts off in the middle of the action. We meet Shailaja (Trisha) and her awful father (Prakash Dad) on the set of Shailu’s latest film. While Shailu is a polite and well-mannered young lady, we can already see that Prakash Dad has been taking parenting lessons from Anupam Kher in Tezaab and views her as his gravy train, which derails when Shailu is kidnapped by an intense-looking Gopichand, playing one of those criminal feudal lords that populate movies like this.
Prakash Dad comes crawling to Venkat (PRABHAS!!!!!!) and despite some animosity between them – which will be explained – Venkat offers to go and fetch her back – for a price.
As Venkat gazes moodily at a portrait of Shailu he conveniently carries in his wallet, the film transitions to flashback… to a fateful rainy day when a train stopped at a station…
Venkat catches Shailaja talking to the rain and is totally captivated – as is a certain Gopichand. Unfortunately for Gopichand, Venkat gets to her first and during an adorable rain song, Nuvvosthante, they fall in love.
(Aw!! It wouldn’t be masala love if they didn’t tease each other a bit!)
(I can’t tell if Gopichand wants to eat her or kiss her!)
They lose track of each other only to reunite under the fateful rains and never let go!
Well, never until Prakash Dad starts messing with their true love!!
The rest of the film follows first the machinations of Prakash Dad trying to play Venkat and Gopichand off of each other and sorely losing when Gopichand kidnaps Shailu and then the rescue of Shailaju and her romantic reconciliation with Venkat.
While you might be wary, as I was when I read the synopsis on the Netflix cover, of a film where the main action is in rescuing a young lady from the hands of an evil captor, let me assure you that Shailaju is not a wimpy heroine.
She could have been a dangerously anti-feminist character but Trisha plays her with an adult grace that counteracts some of the situations she’s placed in. For one thing, Shailaju could have extremely affected like Genelia in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. She talks to the rain - it doesn’t get more precious than that! Yet, Trisha does this in a way that marks her as a naïf rather than a fool.
And her kidnapping isn’t dwelt upon. Although technically she is kidnapped for half the film – most of that time is spent in flashback watching Venkat and Shailaju canoodle, which doesn’t really count. Her captivity isn’t fetishized and there are no threats or hints of rape.
Which leads me to Gopichand.
He has a really Ajay Devgan-ish vibe to him. He was a bastard but he still had an animal attraction about him, which explains why he is now starring as a Hero opposite Trisha.
In one of Gopichand’s finest scenes, he yells down a production of the Ramayana and demands that Sita get married to Ravan right there and then. The fear on the faces of the actors and the intensity of Gopichand’s face is broken only by a power outage that heralds the arrival of a certain Ram-stand-in…
PRABHAS!!!!!!!! (Yes, he’s escaping from a bomb blast by jumping – what are you going to do about it?)
Oh, what – what! Now he’s wearing your Genie pants while romancing your girl!
And that gun he’s shooting? Oh, yeah, he took out at least three trucks with that handgun.
Make not mistake – this is the Prabhas show and while Trisha and Gopichand have their moments to shine, somebody else is taking names and kicking butt. Actually he’s not kicking butt, he’s doing jumping kicks into your chest and fighting off like a hundred guys at a time with a giant wheel of fire. (I’m not joking.)
But Prabhas was never too arrogant or smug or self-satisfied. I was always thrilled when he appeared and cheered every punch. Prahas is just so… likable!
Mixed in for good measure are not one, not two, but three of these uptempo duets that take place in fantasyscapes. I have no idea what to call these songs but I replayed them all!
My favorite was the Arabian-themed “Nizam Pori” sung by Adanan Sami and Sunitha Rao (as far as I can tell – I couldn’t find a tracklisting.)
(You love it, right?!)
There was also the village dance themed Langa Voni.
And the palace-themed Jhoole Jhoole.
And that’s not counting two other straight romantic duets. This movie was packed with music!
Not to mention that Prabhas can boogie at least as well as Hrithik Roshan…
All in all, Varsham is a highly satisfying film and if Bollywood is looking to remake something… I’ve got it right here!