Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sangama: Chasing Golden Star Ganesh

(Thank you to Bangalore365 for the images!)

Sangama, starring Golden Star Ganesh and the luminous Vedhika, is an interesting little film. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next for most of the film – an unusual circumstance for me in a romance-driven masala film. Every expectation I had, Sangama flipped around on me, leading up a wonderfully cathartic ending.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who might actually watch this (available here - the subtitles are not great but I managed to get most of what was going on) so I will warn you before I give away the ending.

Vedhika plays Lachi, a nice middle-class girl whose parents are trying to arrange her marriage. Balu is their neighbor and almost surrogate member of the family. Balu takes it upon himself to do things like make sure that prospective suitors are who they say they are – and to make sure they are good enough for Lachi. Lachi, on her part, is content to go by what her family (and Balu) say. She’s not too concerned with love.

But poor Lachi isn’t having any luck with suitors, so her grandmother tells her to go to the temple every morning for a month to pour milk on the Snake God and tie a thread around the sacred fig tree and a good husband will come to her.

Lachi isn’t too thrilled to be getting up at 5am every morning to go to the temple but Balu offers to drive her.

Everything seemed fairly straightforward up until this point but after a few of these early morning pooja sessions, something clicked for both me and Lachi.

You see, Lachi wasn’t feeling well one morning and rather than have her break the cycle, Balu offers to perform the blessing for her, like a pandit would – she just needs to say “Mama” when he points to her, to complete the blessing. Lachi agrees.

And as she watches Balu perform the worship for her so selflessly, she realizes that she is in love with him.

The revelation comes in a beautiful song that totally blew my mind because it was a “glimpse song” but from a female perspective. She finally sees Balu for who he is and she wants him – Lachi is going to be the aggressor for the entire film.

Vedhika, who I haven’t seen in anything else, is captivating as Lachi. Not only is she gorgeous, with those heavy-lidded eyes and that regal nose, but Vedhika is good at playing pushy. Lachi is just so impatient and stubborn and far from naïve. Lachi has never heard the words “coy or “demure” – you can see her plotting behind those eyes.

Poor, good-natured Balu never stood a chance!

And that is what interested me so much about Sangama - there were so many complicated emotional threads and nothing went where I expected it to.

So, like I said before, Balu is almost a surrogate member of Lachi’s family. He knows better than anyone what they are looking for in a son-in-law. One day, the perfect suitor falls right into Balu’s lap – or rather, emerges from the backseat of a giant SUV and heads into Balu’s office.

Balu arranges a meeting between Mr. Perfect’s family and Lachi’s family, hoping to make a match.

Well, the day of the big meeting, Lachi isn’t having any of this nonsense and pulls Balu aside to tell him that she only wants to marry him.

Balu freaks out – he has no idea what to do with that information and tells Lachi that she can’t disappoint her family and that she MUST go through with this marriage.

She senses that things aren’t quite as cut and dry as all of that.

The rest of the film is spent in a bizarre cat-and-mouse game where Lachi forcefully expresses her feelings and Balu attempts to rebuff them. And having to reject Lachi is tearing Balu up – he’s miserable!

(I wasn’t miserable, though, because we get some deliciously swoon-worthy scenes involving some hurt/comfort and stolen blessings at temple.)

I’m about to give away the ending here, so be forewarned if you plan on watching this and want to sit through the stomach-churning march to the end when you don’t know who is going to crack first – Balu or Lachi.

(Isn’t she pretty?!)

Okay, so, I honestly had no idea how Sangama was going to end. The plot takes us right up to the wedding between Mr. Perfect and Lachi. Things were genuinely open-ended! Bear in mind that Balu has been acting as if being around Lachi is painful – she is going on pure intuition that he loves her, too, because he hasn’t said anything to her. And she tried every trick in the book.

As Mr. Perfect approaches, Balu is leading a happy dance out on the dance floor and Lachi looks miserable. She gets up to walk away and I was half-convinced she was getting ready to go kill herself. But, instead, my brave girl goes up to her parents and tells them that she can’t marry Mr. Perfect after all – she loves Balu.

And Balu still doesn’t want to admit that he loves her, too. It takes his BFF Kama (played by that guy who played the butter-stealing worker in Sevanti Sevanti) to speak up for true love.

Balu just explodes! He calls out Lachi’s family for sending him to approve all the suitors but never once asking him to marry Lachi. They had all these qualifications for the perfect husband and doesn’t meet a single one – he’s working class, no family, and no education. How could he even approach them like that?

He had been holding all these feelings in while Lachi was tormenting him with her declarations of love – all he wanted to do was respond but he had to hold back out of respect for her family.

*sigh*

I won’t give away the grand finale but I will say that I shed a few tears.

What I loved about Sangama is that the romance between the two characters felt earned. Her attraction didn’t pop up out of nowhere, it just took a little milk on the Snake God for her to open her eyes to the guy who had always been there for her, helping her out.

I was very impressed with how Balu’s responses to Lachi were handled. Rather than babying her, he just tells her to grow up. I almost got the feeling that Balu was insulted by Lachi’s sudden change of heart. Here he had been holding onto these feelings for years and she just decides out of nowhere to love him? He doesn’t think that she understands what she is getting into. And it’s to Lachi’s credit that she sees through this façade and just goes for broke chasing him.

I highly recommend Sangama with a couple of caveats. There is one sequence in which Balu slaps a female character, which might be a deal-breaker for some people, and the comedy track involves a take on Dostana that, needless to say, is in poor taste. It’s funny – but in poor taste.

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