What is the story about?
Five women Anu, Mohini, Uma, Gayathri and Sarah from different walks of life come together on a road trip, eager to put their past behind and start life on a new slate. Anu has just come out of a toxic relationship and is consistently slut-shamed for her liberal lifestyle. Mohini, an upcoming actress in Telugu films, is merely viewed as an object of desire by the men around her. Uma is sold off to a man for a price of Rs 50000 by her father. Gayathri, a young homemaker, has no personal life at all and little control over her choices. Iranian girl Sarah is wrapping up a thesis on the life of two men behind the bars.
Sita on the Road is a rare Telugu film made with an intent to celebrate female friendships and the spirit of sisterhood. The road-film frees its female characters from the labels of a daughter, sister, mother, wife or girlfriend and treats them as independent women with a conscience. The pivotal characters in the story discover their purpose over a road trip that helps them confront their inner demons with greater confidence. Yet, even the films with the noblest of intentions collapse like a pack of cards in the hands of a mediocre team. Sita on the Road is unfortunately that film.
Just because it’s a film with a relatively progressive idea, Sita on the Road doesn’t qualify to be a great work of art – the reality is far from it. The film feels like a cheap imitation of Angry Indian Goddesses. Everything from the storytelling to the characterisation and the dialogues are vague and amateurish. Sample the randomness in this dialogue - ‘If Buddha was born in this generation, he’d have been enlightened not under the Bodhi tree, but on a bullet ride.’
The story has no head or tail and the presentation is by no means rooted in reality. A series of overlong voice-overs philosophise almost everything under the sun. An Iranian woman keeps blabbering in English with her driver about gender dynamics, ideals and the latter wears a clueless expression (much like the spectator). There’s zilch emotional connect in the backstories and little sense of direction in the storytelling. The characters in the film incidentally have no clue of their destination on their road trip – the filmmaker Praneeth Yaron was perhaps talking about his film.
For all its claims of making a feminist film, Sita on the Road has a very narrow-minded understanding of an urban-bred girl – it makes a big deal of the fact that she is comfortable in shorts, smokes, drinks and makes out with a stranger after a breakup. Just because the film sees the world through the eyes of a woman, every second male character is treated like a pervert or a perpetrator or man with sensitivity at all.
If a woman is divorced, the husband has to be the bad guy. If she’s from the film industry, the men only ask for ‘compromises’. If she’s a homemaker, the husband has to be stone-hearted. If she’s a daughter from a poor family, the father’s looking to sell her off. One of the women avenges even her ex by leaving him naked on a Goan island. Watching Sita on the Road is like taking off on a road trip in a vehicle with no engine or fuel.
There’s hardly anything noteworthy about the performances. Gayathri Gupta makes some effort to lend authenticity to her portrayal of a homemaker from a middle-class family and fares marginally better than her female counterparts. Kalpika Ganesh gets a poorly written role that lacks a proper basis. It’s hard to decide what about Khatera Hakimi is more intolerable between her performance and Telugu diction. Nesa Farhadi has nothing memorable to do, Babu Rao makes acting look like a punishment. Among the supporting actors, Jayasree Rachakonda is passable. The bunch of non-actors in the other roles have no screen presence at all.
Music & Other Departments
Praneeth Yaron, the composer is much better than the filmmaker in him. Though it’s still a score and an album with many loose ends, it has promise and makes a genuine effort to contribute to the ambience of the film. Raj Anantha’s cinematography is appealing but it lacks a larger purpose or appeal when the writing doesn’t quite add up. The editing is abysmal to put it kindly, the scenes have a very loose emotional foundation and the narrative lacks cohesion. The preachy dialogues lack context and doff their hat to Whatsapp forwards and a bunch of self-help books.
- Good idea
- Reasonable music
- No concrete storyline
- Half-baked storytelling
- Lifeless performances
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?