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Review – Dear Comrade

Film: Dear Comrade

Director: Bharat Kamma
Rating: 2 stars
Cast: Vijay Deverakonda, Rashmika Mandanna, Shruthi Ramachandran, Charu Haasan and others
Music: Justin Prabhakaran
Cameraman: Sujith Sarang

Dear Comrade could be described as your regular love story with a generous dose of feminist thought or it could also be described as a film with the most number of sequences that seem to be rehashed versions of scenes from earlier romantic hits.

Aparna Devi (Rashmika Mandana), called Lily by friends and family members, is a state level cricketer. Her family and the family of Bobby aka Chaitanya (Vijay Deverakonda), a short-tempered, impulsive, outspoken and violent college student with a strong belief in the Communist idealogy, are neighbours in their home town of Thoothukudi.

When Lily comes home to attend her sister’s wedding, Bobby, like all the heroes in other love stories, falls for her. He chases her and eventually she reciprocates his love. However, Lily makes no bones of the fact that she is scared of his violent nature and urges him to keep his anger in check.

Despite her warnings, Bobby fails to rein in his temper. During a particular incident, he violently pushes her away and she takes exception to it. She decides to go away from his life. As a result, the lovers part ways.

Three years roll by. One day, Bobby happens to meet Lily again. This time, what he sees is a broken, depressed Lily undergoing psychiatric treatment in a hospital. She has given up cricket and on life and is in a state of fear.

Bobby nurtures her back to health, revives her faith and self-confidence. In the process, he also gets to know that their break up wasn’t the reason for Lily’s sorry state but the sexual harassment that she was subjected to at the BCCI. How he brings the offender to book is the story.

The film has a few positives and a truckload of negatives. We’ll start off with the positives first.

The film’s strongest point is its music by Justin Prabhakaran. Justin seems to have poured his soul into every composition. His lilting numbers combined with Sujith Sarang’s brilliant visuals transport you to another dreamy world – a world that is too good to be true. It’s not just the songs. Even his background score is appropriate and lifts the film to a completely different level.

Next, Rashmika Mandanna as Lily is a picture of poise and grace all through the film. Her expressions are soft and measured but yet, she manages to display a kind of deep inner strength that is very much visible to the trained eye. Her cricketing shots are reasonably convincing and one gets the impression that she indeed knows how to play the sport. The sequence where she, after being shunned by the boys initially, wins a cricket match by hitting sixes is priceless.

Now, come the negatives of the film.

Dear Comrade reminds you of every single romantic movie that you have watched so far so much so that you think the film has been made by lifting sequences from other films.

For instance, there is a scene where Lily tells Bobby, “If you don’t want me to go, let go of the violence. If you can’t let go of this violence, let go of me.” Rewind to Mouna Ragam, which was made almost 25 years ago by Mani Ratnam, and you will find the exact same sequence wherein Revathy tells Karthik the very same dialogue.

That is not all. Some of the scenes look like they have been lifted not from just one film but more. For instance, after his break up with Lily, Bobby chooses to travel wide and far. He goes to the mountains seeking peace and healing. Now, you will find a similar sequence in Gautham Menon’s Vaaranam Aayiram wherein Suriya heads off to strange places seeking peace after being unable to come to terms with the death of his dear one. Bobby’s travel also looks identical to a sequence in Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum in which Harish Kalyan travels to the mountains to seek peace after a break up.

Next, unable to come to terms with the fact that she has left for practice, Bobby travels all the way to the city that she now resides in. This reminds one of a sequence in Alaipaayuthey, in which Madhavan travels to Kerala to meet Shalini.

I could go on and on but then, you get the point, right?

Next, the film’s USP happens to be the sexual harassment that Lily undergoes at the hands of a BCCI official and the subsequent manner in which she fights back. So, one would expect that part to be as authentic as possible. Exaggeration and dramatization are all fine in cinema but not when one is talking about a serious issue such as sexual harassment.

The guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court after the Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan case are very clear when it comes to the constitution of committees hearing sexual harassment cases. The panel can be headed only by a woman. More than 50 per cent of the committee’s members can only be women. That apart, two members of the committee must be from outside agencies and not have anything to do with the association that is conducting the inquiry.

In the film, the panel that is conducting the inquiry is headed by a male. The committee comprises of four males and one female.

As if these goof ups weren’t enough, the film has a sequence that shows the inquiry panel conducting the inquiry with both the victim and the suspect being made to be present at the same time! These incorrect sequences are bound to be hits with feminists and such sequences could wrongly send out the message that inquiry panels actually compound the trauma of victims!

The film also seeks to give the impression that all allegations made by women are true and tries to drum up support for the opinion that every time a woman levels an allegation, she has to be supported irrespective of whether her claims are true or not. While there is no doubt that the guilty have to be brought to book, one cannot ignore the fact that there have been instances when there have been false allegations also. The film comfortably chooses to ignore this aspect.

In all, Dear Comrade has basically been made to please women audiences! If you are a guy, there is very little to like about this movie!

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