When was the last time you heard thunderous applause for a heroine introduction that too for a debutant and for these lines “Baadkov.. Balsinda ra?” Thanks to Premam and Malar, Sai Pallavi is a known face to the youth of South India. But I’m sure she’ll be remembered as Bhanumathi for a long time.

The story of Fidaa is pretty straightforward. NRI telugu guy, Varun and a Banswada (Telangana) girl meet up at the match-making of their siblings. The girl in her words, “is a hybrid pilla. Two religions. Two castes.” She doesn’t want to leave her village and her father though she’s in love with Varun. Things get worse when some misunderstanding happens and then the hate part in the “Love-Hate-Love” story comes in place. How they sorted out things and found a common ground (the second “love” part) is the rest of the story.

There’s a thing with women in Sekhar Kammula’s films. They are all strong, independent, quirky and they all love to dance in rain. Bhanumathi in Fidaa is a testament to Sekhar’s brilliant female characters. It just shows how good this man is when it comes to treating women on screen. Through Bhanu, he gave some beautiful lines which makes us think like “Why should girls leave behind everything they had since their childhood after marriage?”, “Love lo conditions pedatama?” and some hilarious ones as well. Bhanu is basically Jessi (Ye Maaya Chesave) meets Haasini (Bommarillu) meets Roopa (Anand).

To say Sai Pallavi brought Bhanu to life is still an understatement. For someone who’s not a telugu speaking girl to master a particular dialect of Telugu is one hell of a task. Her respect and hard work for the language is a lesson to all the imported actresses who are here since ages and still can’t speak proper Telugu. She sheds off the “Malar” image and makes us completely believe she is a Telangana girl. She won half the battle there itself. Her subtle expressions, her dance movies in “Vachinde” and her scenes with the father (especially in the climax, without a single line, she conveys with her gradual change of expressions that her father no longer needs her to give tablets and how she realized it), she never hits a false note. It’s a gem of a performance with nuance which will be remembered for years to come.

Varun on the other hand keeps it subtle throughout. Though he’s kinda overshadowed by both Bhanu as a character and Pallavi as a performer, he also has few moments. The supporting cast, Bhanu’s father, sister and Varun’s brother (Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry garu’s son) are well fit for their roles. Pelli Choopulu director Tharun’s mother Geetha makes her acting debut as Bhanu’s Atha and she’s also cool. Satyam Rajesh provides humor in the second half.

Music by Shakthikanth and background score by Jeevan is beautiful. Vachinde, Oosupodu, Hey Pillagada.. All three are equally good. Cinematography by Vijay beautifully captures the contrast landscapes of Banswada and America. Dil raju maintains his production values and gives Sekhar full freedom to make his kind of cinema.

Sekhar kept on saying in interviews that Fidaa is like his daughter and he wrote Bhanu character keeping in my mind how he wants his daughter to be. He did complete justice to Bhanu. The scene where the bride is to be sent away is beautifully done. That’s Sekhar at his best. But it’s the pre-climax portions where his writing fell short. Varun says to Bhanu, “Can we just be friends?” and followed by him showing his world to her. It’s from this exact moment for the next 10 minutes, Fidaa tumbles. This could be because the misunderstanding caused is simplistic that it doesn’t create that impact when Bhanu realises that. But Sekhar makes it up with the final scene.

So, is Fidaa Sekhar Kammula’s best love story? No, certainly not. Anand is the best. But, is he back to form? Hell yeah!!

I’m going with 3 and half stars.


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