Dear Comrade: An equal romance full of heart and sensitivity

Friendship is at the heart of love. Dear Comrade understands this secret. This is why Bobby (Vijay Deverekonda) doesn’t use words like ‘darling’ and ‘baby’ when referring to Lilly (Rashmika Mandanna). He prefers the word ‘comrade’ instead, making the promise that he will always be one for her. This is far more moving than other conventional overused words of endearment. The origin of this word itself is rooted in gender neutrality, equality, and a unity in pursuit of a shared goal. In Dear Comrade, this goal is self-improvement. This is the film about how Lilly finds a comrade, about how liberating it is for people to have one such person, romantic relationship or otherwise.

There’s almost no plot here and whatever there is, isn’t particularly surprising, but it doesn’t matter, for, this is a film championed by characterisation. It’s a journey—a word used many times in the film—that Bobby and Lilly go through, personally and together. The equality professed by this film is evident in the challenges both characters have to surmount. Both bear the impact of a family member. Bobby takes after his grandfather, a communist—in an early scene, his father expresses concern about this, referring to Bobby’s irrepressible need to stand up for what’s right. He won’t back down, he won’t take no, and he’s violent to boot. In a sense, you could say he is fire in human form. Lilly, on the other hand, is like water. She’s fluid, fleeting, and will slide away from her fights, internal and extrnal. When Bobby tells her of his love, you can see she’s already moving away. “I’ve had good memories so far with you, except this one,” she says. Can these two ever meet each other half-way? Can Bobby mellow? Can Lilly gather up her courage? More fascinatingly, can they help each other achieve both?

It’s a pretty long film at 2 hours and 50 minutes, but I didn’t mind this at all, given how all the characterisation imbues the events of this film with much emotional strength, also a consequence of Justin Prabakaran’s evocative score. When Lilly confronts an injured Bobby at the hospital, she asks, amid tears, “Who gave you the right to make us feel so much grief?” It’s a pertinent question to a man who is constantly standing up for people’s rights. Pay more attention, and you will see that this is a question she wishes she could ask her dead brother. Or take the scene which has Lilly’s father almost cowering from conflict. It shows him as a protective, conservative type (“Siggu ledhu neeku?” asks Bobby), but pay more attention and you will see that this tendency to avoid conflict could well have been a consequence of his son’s death. Director Bharat Kamma shows great control over what he lets these characters do and speak.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Been meaning to watch this film for a while now and finally caught it on Amazon Prime. Postponed reading this review as well… Really glad I watched Dear Comrade and read this insightful review, which is like the dessert after a main course.
    Loved the performances, sensitivity and the detailing as well. VD and Rashmika were damn good. Though these two are so perfect for each other it was beautiful that both had to get broken and put back together over the course of the tempestuous journey that is love and life.

    The cures posited by the film for mental illness was jarring for me. As a Psychology major, I can attest that it is never this simple. Love, nature and the best of intentions can help but more often than not, none of it is nearly enough. That aside, it was particularly heartening that the film acknowledged it was Aparna Devi’s fight and even a hotheaded, well – meaning comrade can’t win it for her. And yet some of it bothered me…

    As Aparna tells Bobby, her father was worried about family honour and respect, whereas he wanted her to fight, nobody had bothered to ask her what she wanted. Even in the end, it was Bobby who forced things to reach a courtroom and she was pushed into speaking up. He even calls her a ‘loser’ and a ‘coward’ because she wanted nothing at all to do with her monster and had chosen to simply run for her life. That really bothered and depressed me. It is always satisfying in a mass film to see lecherous pig fucks get their comeuppance or beaten up to within an inch of their sorry lives but with it comes the heartbreaking realization that things pan out very differently in real life. When a girl is sexually harassed, abused, molested, raped she is almost always alone even if there are well meaning individuals/comrades around her. Too few if any ever get justice. Or a modicum of peace. Mostly, they have no choice but to cower under the covers, lick their wounds and hope the monsters are done with them. The thought made me cry. Even more than the movie did.

    PS: When a victim is not willing to speak out or fight back, that does not make her a loser or a coward, it just means that she is trying to survive and put the broken pieces back together as best as she can. All by herself. Because there is no Bobby readily available to hold her hand and help her find herself again.


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