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.
For the remainder of this interview (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), please visit https://www.cinemaexpress.com/reviews/tamil/2019/jul/26/dear-comrade-movie-review-an-equal-romance-full-of-heart-and-sensitivity-13233.html