Director: Venky Atluri
Cast: Varun Tej, Raashi Khanna, Priyadarshi Pullikonda, Suhasini Mani Ratnam and Naresh
There’s a line in the film which roughly translates to ‘Memories. Good or bad. Need to be carried’. This profound line pretty much sums up the essence of Venky Atluri’s Tholiprema, a deeply emotional and poignant tale of first love and separation which tugs at heartstrings, evoking the kind of feeling that many films in similar space over the years failed to create. Despite treading a familiar path and situations, it’s amazing how Tholiprema comes across as a very fresh and pleasant film.
The major difference between Tholiprema and other movies about first love and coming-of-age is that the former chooses to treat its story with maturity and thank god for that. While the initial portion of the film does feel corny, especially the love at first sight sequence on a train (which is salvaged by the lovely Ninnila song), the treatment does get better when the plot shifts to college and it gets even better when the story shifts to London. As the characters grow older, one can sense the tone of the film turning serious and this has to do with the changing mindsets of the lead characters which are explored at different junctures.
The story takes places in three stages (over a span of six years) in the lives of Varun and Raashi, who fall in love and part ways only to fall in love again. Varun and Raashi are terrific and they go beyond the atypical Telugu cinema pair to play their parts convincingly.
Varun, in particular, brings a lot of depth and vulnerability to his character and it’s a joy to watch him on screen. He likes to take up challenges and I was praying that this isn’t one of those films where the hero sees a beautiful girl and his friends challenge him to make her fall for him. Thankfully, this isn’t one such film but there’s still a needless plot detour where Varun makes a girl (played by Sapna Pabbi) fall for him (because she challenges him) only to say he’s not interested as he can’t get over Raashi, who gets a very well-written role.
It’s refreshing to see Raashi in a role that doesn’t require her to amp up the glamour quotient. She’s a lot mature than Varun; doesn’t believe in love at first sight and has the maturity to apologize when she realizes she’s at fault.
Atluri’s writing, especially how he deals with scenes about separation and the moments leading to the climax, is very heartwarming. The narrative is interspersed with fun thanks to scenes featuring Priyadarshi and Hyper Aadi. Thaman’s music breathes life into the film and serves as one of the major highlights of the film. The title track is easily his best song in recent times.