Ninnu Kori

Ninnu Kori had the potential to be good. I like the concept, and it is rare to see a first love is not the only love story. Unfortunately Shiva Nirvana squandered a great cast on a badly written screenplay full of paternalistic BS.

Uma (Nani) meets Pallavi (Nivetha Thomas) when she suddenly decides he must teach her to dance. The moment he touches her, he falls in love. Pallavi takes longer to succumb, and their developing friendship and ensuing romance is among the few highlights. Uma rents the upstairs room at Pallavi’s family home, carrying on a clandestine romance under the eagle eye of her dad (Murali Sharma). Uma seems to have no family, is a PhD student with no job lined up, and he doesn’t seem inclined to try too hard. Pallavi begs him to marry her as while she will elope and upset her parents, she won’t disgrace the whole family by running away after they fix a match. He overhears her father interfering in another family’s elopement issue and the speech about what fathers know their daughters need hits home. Pallavi’s marriage is arranged in Vizag while Uma is studying in Delhi. She calls him in a last ditch attempt, but he talks over her about his own news. So Pallavi marries Arun (Aadhi Pinisetty) who seems nice despite a penchant for Disney songs. They move to the US and life is good. Until Uma turns up determined to “save” Pallavi from what he believes must be a loveless marriage.

The film sounds promising as it acknowledges that it is fine to have a past, and it is OK to move on from an unsuccessful relationship. Sadly almost every time someone made a good or thoughtful point, they then pretty much did the opposite of what they said. When Uma says not to interfere between Arun and Pallavi, the next scene is of Uma and others engineering a confrontation between the spouses.

According to Kona Venkat’s screenplay, under NO circumstances should you ask a woman what is important to her. Men must only ever discuss this with another man, preferably one with his own agenda or, even better, no idea at all. Rather than tell Pallavi the truth, Arun shared an admittedly touching scene with Uma where Uma was forced to realise he was the equivalent of a cocaine fuelled suicidal ex wannabe girlfriend. Several men in the audience applauded while I wondered why Arun couldn’t be honest with his wife but could spill his guts to the guy trying to replace him.

Shiva Nirvana takes all the cheap shots, and none of them necessary. Pallavi’s best friend Kavita had to be a fat chick and the butt of some mean one-liners. Addiction and mental illness were treated flippantly as a now you see it now you don’t excuse for Uma’s shenanigans. A black actor was cast as a knife wielding mugger while most of the other American extras were white.

At the end of the film Uma grandly states he has learned his lesson and will marry first, fall in love after. I have no issue with arranged marriages, but I take exception to the man who behaved like a dick being applauded for deciding to bestow himself upon some poor woman. He constantly put himself first, blamed everyone else if he didn’t get what he wanted, and took advantage of Arun and Pallavi’s kindness. What a catch. What a hero.

Nani is the Simon the Likeable of Telugu cinema and I blame him for making me stay beyond half time. In the first stage of Uma’s love for Pallavi, Nani plays him as a genuine, nice, boy next door type. He is playful and affectionate, and wants to get his degree and a job before marrying Pallavi. Once she marries Arun, Uma becomes an alcoholic which Nani demonstrates by sporting a beard and drinking so hard he almost bites the top off a hipflask. When Uma goes to stay with Arun and Pallavi he is all spite and manipulative snark. His snide remarks got lots of laughs but despite good comedic timing I wanted to kick him. Pallavi tells him she is happy, but Uma knows better. He couldn’t move on, how can she?

Pallavi starts out as a bit daft but eventually, perhaps in spite of the screenplay, Nivetha Thomas develops her character into a lovely young woman. Her grief at their break up and her anger at Uma’s selfishness are portrayed with restraint and judgement. When Pallavi thinks Arun has cheated, Nivetha made the melodrama feel grounded in Pallavi’s previous experience. She had some strong dialogue, and Pallavi was willing and able to articulate her feelings, but the men only listen to themselves. Pallavi was hurt to think that Uma was wallowing in pain because he assumed she was miserable while I was upset that he never listened to her.

Aadhi Pinisetty has a quiet energy that plays off Nani’s more extrovert childish antics. At first I thought Arun was a bit wet, but Aadhi shows the reaction and immediate squashing down of his feelings. He and Nivetha have a different chemistry, convincing as a settled couple. And because husbands are heroes, he also got to beat someone up. I was very distracted by his unfortunate 70s blow wave though. I’m going to blame the director because he bollocksed up so many other things he may as well cop the hair crimes too.

Tanikella Bharani is understated in a small role as Uma’s professor and mentor, in as much as a mentor calls on an ex to sort out his most brilliant student’s life. Balireddy Pruthviraj is Lovababu, Pallavi’s (comedy) uncle. I can’t really fault any of the support actors, except for the usual “any white person will do, especially one in a bikini” extras.

Gopi Sunder’s soundtrack is adequate without being memorable. The background score is hamfisted with crashing percussion to indicate drama, and strings and synths denoting romance. The visual language is clunky, and things that probably sounded cool look amateurish in execution (e.g. Uma splashing water on his face cutting to a crashing wave).  There are vague attempts to paper over some plot holes and some very awkward exposition. The pace is uneven, wallowing in Uma’s angst while speeding past pivotal moments.

The film is a mansplainer’s delight and Uma, who behaves appallingly, is constantly rewarded for being an arse. I was disappointed by Ninnu Kori, and don’t recommend it because of the stupidity and toxic messages disguised as respect for tradition and the power of love.

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10 thoughts on “Ninnu Kori

  1. I’m surprised that after watching so much telugu cinema, only now the feminist in you came out guns blazing! Finally had enough of masala and mustaches of telugu cinema?

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    • Hardly the first time I’ve mentioned this Dileep – you probably are a bit too highbrow to read all my Telugu film posts 🙂
      If the film is pure mass, especially if it is an older film (80s/90s), I tend not to have high expectations although I do frequently comment on the women within the story. Mass genre films are all about the hero and a series of excuses for him to be heroic, so emotional complexity is rare and tend to be confined to the hero and his parents. And I don’t have a time machine to go and fix those 80s attitudes! When a film is supposed to be about the relationships as in Ninnu Kori or other recent movies like Pelli Choopulu, Jyo Achyutananda, Size Zero, even older films like Stri (all written about by me, a feminist 🙂 ) then my expectation is that those relationships will have substance whether they are happy or not, and stand up to some analysis.

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  2. I admit I feel awkward when they show white women in bikinis for the sole reason of showing something exotic, now-a-days. Not sure when they are going to realize it’s already a stale formula.

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  3. SPOLIER ALERT DONT READ IF YOU WANT TO WATCH THE MOVIE
    1)This is why I felt the movie was a totally crap, I didn’t understand when two ppl are in love and want to marry but had a break for a while, how will the person completely go and marry another man!! She don’t even have minimum courtesy to let know her lover that she is getting married it was totally insane.
    2)second part is even more crazy the another man is so shy, a loner and has a best friend who proposes him !! But he don’t have feeling for her (I can understand till here) but he goes and marry a complete stranger and comes to know she had a lover but even tho loves her !! (This part is strange) I mean we are living in 21st I felt it’s too crooked relationship (movie wise it’s good entertainment) I didn’t like the story.
    Ps- I liked Nani and nivetha acted very well.i gave a star for both the actors .

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    • Hi Pria 🙂
      I didn’t have any problem with the way Pallavi moved on. She told Uma before he left that her marriage would be arranged soon and he promised to come when she called. So when she called, he talked about himself and never asked her what was happening. She had been feeling insecure for a while and then took that as a sign he had changed his priorities. And as for Arun being introverted…he wasn’t completely clueless, he just didn’t have feelings for his friend. I actually liked that they discussed their respective pasts and could start their married life without secrecy about the exes. I completely agree with you about Nani and Nivetha 🙂

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  4. I’m usually interested in your commentary, but I think you’ve fundamentally misunderstood the movie in several ways. Several scenes are also flagrantly misinterpreted.

    The main thing you should realize is that while Uma is the protagonist, he’s not the hero. Literally everything you’ve listed about Uma that you don’t like is quite obviously intentional. He’s a broken human being with a lot of flaws. The clearest indicator that Uma was not the good guy in this movie was probably the fact that he never got the girl. The climax pretty much has Uma deliver a speech where he realized that he wasn’t the good guy, and that he was ruining the lives of two kind people by refusing to move on.

    Also, the lesson isn’t to marry first and fall in love after; it’s to take life as it comes and make the most you can of all the chances you get. It’s about learning to move on. The film literally ends with “Let’s welcome life.” When Uma looks at Arun and Pallavi and says “Poni pelli chesukoni preminchukuntam sir”, he’s just recognizing the legitimacy of Arun and Pallavi’s love, and that love can arise in many different ways.

    The movie is far from perfect, but you’ve really missed the mark on this one IMO. Maybe the subtitles weren’t up to par.

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    • I never said anything about his character flaws being unintentional. Based on what you’ve said, I think the subtitles may have been a bit off. In the final speech he said he had learned the way to happiness was not to try to hold on to past happiness but to get married then fall in love, and then it closed on the “welcome life” line. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

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      • I’m just saying, it doesn’t make sense to fault the movie for a flawed protagonist when his flaws are integral to the story. His behavior isn’t showcased in a positive light (Pallavi literally slaps him at one point for being a jerk), and his lack of self-awareness is supposed to be upsetting. He’s the focus of the story, but it doesn’t mean he’s a good guy. He grows and changes by the end, and owns up to his mistakes.

        Also, in the ending Uma doesn’t say that the way to happiness is to get married and fall in love. When asked by Pallavi’s father when he’s planning to fall in love again, he just throws it out as one of the many possibilities he’s willing to embrace (welcoming life). In the climactic speech he doesn’t say this either, he just says that while love may not lead to marriage, marriages are built on love. He recognizes that his feelings for Pallavi are water under the bridge, and that he has to move on.

        I think you’d have come away with a very different opinion of this movie if you were a native speaker. It’s almost like you reviewed a completely different movie; so many nuances in tone and tongue in cheek statements are entirely overlooked to create a fundamentally different narrative.

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      • That being said, please don’t take my comments personally. This is one of the most unique blogs on the internet and I thoroughly enjoy reading your viewpoints. I just wanted to correct what I felt was incomplete understanding of this movie.

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      • I’m not offended. I don’t understand why you keep arguing a point I didn’t make and you are misinterpreting some of my stated reasons for disliking the film, but whatever dude. It’s your time, waste it however you like.

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