Dixitulu (Mukkuraju), an old aged brahmin marries a younger girl Suseela (Sri Ramya). The young girl's hopes of marriage bliss remains a mirage. She comes across Suri (Baladitya), a young man belonging to lower caste. Their acquiantance leads to romance and she becomes pregnant. The enraged Dixitulu locks her in a dark room and outcastes Suri from the village. What events follow, how Suri. 1940 lo Oka Gramam has won 3 Nandi awards & a national award for the best regional (Telugu) language film. As the title says, the film is about the superstitions & class discrimination by the upper caste Brahmins in a village in the year 1940. This film is adopted from the book Ghosha by Gurazada Appa Rao.
In an interview, Narasimha Nandi, the director of this movie gave the following statement. “I held 30 shows for distributors but no one seemed interested in buying the film'. After watching the film, I can easily see why this happened. I will bet my laptop that each one of those distributors were sleeping soundly by the end of the movie.
1940 lo Oka Gramam has won 3 Nandi awards & a national award for the best regional (Telugu) language film. As the title says, the film is about the superstitions & class discrimination by the upper caste Brahmins in a village in the year 1940. This film is adopted from the book Ghosha by Gurazada Appa Rao.
The film starts with an intense scene where a man from a lower caste is castrated because of his love with an upper caste woman. So I know (atleast thought) that this is going to be an intense thought provoking film. But by the end of the first 30 minutes, I understood that this is going to be one of the most agonizing & torturous experiences that I will have. Dheekshitulu is a 65-70 year old brahmin widower with no children. He sees the beautiful 16 year old Susheela & goes to her parents to ask her hand. Though her mother is angry with this proposal, Dheekshitulu says that he will give them a lot of kanyasulkam to which they finally agree.
(To my friends in other countries who don't know about kanyasulkam, kanyasulkam roughly means brideprice whereby sometimes an old brahmin would buy an young bride by giving the bride's parents money as an exchange for the bride. This was prevalent in some areas of South India prior to the 1940s. Thankfully, like smallpox, this practice was completely eradicated only to be overtaken by a more horrendous practice called dowry system which, like AIDS, is unfortunately yet to be eradicated.)
So our 70 year old grandpa marries 16 year old young girl. On the very first night she comes to know that her old husband is neither interested nor capable of making love. Also in the village is the hot headed intelligent XYZ (didn't remember this name) who belongs to a lower caste & is not even allowed to enter the village temple. We have a nice premise & everything is fine until this point. We know after the first 15 minutes that by the end i) our XYZ & Susheela are going to be united and ii) there is going to be a change in the beliefs of the upper caste people of the village.
The journey that takes place in between & the showcasing of the change should be what actually makes this an interesting watch. But the worst part is that all that we have in the movie is preaching preaching preaching & nothing else. Our young couple have an extramarital affair due to which Susheela becomes pregnant, Dheekshitulu sends her out of the house, village council shaves the heads of XYZ & Susheela as a punishment, Dheekshitulu has a change of heart & conducts the marriage of the young couple, finally the village elders have a change of heart themselves when all the lower caste people refuse to do any work for them.
Every scene in the movie is being forced into your brain. The amazing turn that Dheekshitulu character takes at the end is unbelievable. For a hard core chauvinist to change to the opposite end of the spectrum, he should have some soft spot in his heart or there must be a really strong motivational factor. With neither of these things, his change of heart is absolutely stupid. The same goes for the village elders. In a prior scene, just for drinking water from their well, they make a lower caste person drink their urine. While he is drinking urine, they laugh like some sadistic lunatics. I can't believe that they have this change of heart & become the most noblest of men just because others don't work for them. I didn't have an iota of empathy or care for the characters. This is what differentiates crap like this & such gems such as Sankarabharanam or the highly underrated Saptapadi.
Except the performance of Baladithya (who plays the role of XYZ), there is not a single thing good about the movie. Ya, it has decent background score but that's it. One of the things that annoys me beyond hell in any movie is bad lipsync. The dubbing is horrible. At no point did I get the feel that I was watching a movie which was supposed to be in 1940. Neither the dialogue nor the cinematography did any help to authenticate the 1940 setting. The director has manufactured the scenes. I can literally see that the director has made the characters as puppets who are dancing to his tunes without any logic. There is nothing special in Mukkuraju's portrayal of Dheekshitulu but he got a Nandi award as best character actor. I don't know what is wrong with our awards system. I may not agree with all the winners at Oscars but atleast they have a really good democratic system in place.
At the end of it there is neither entertainment nor message (there is no empathy towards the characters to really get the message). With a better director and in a different era, this could have been a better movie.
This is exactly the kind of a film that a critic prays every morning that he should not be subjected to. For voting this, every person in the national awards jury should be made to watch this movie for a 100 times after which I'm sure they themselves would ask to be fried in hot oil rather than watching this. I mean what about the really funny Ashta Chemma or the highly entertaining Arundhati or the message oriented Gamyam. Each of these is a 100 times better film than 1940 lo Oka Gramam.
As far as the Nandi award for Best film on national integration goes, I have an interesting advice to anyone out there who wants to get an easy Nandi award. Just follow the following steps.
Step 1. List some 5 to 6 good moral advices such as for e.g, Don't tell lies, All people are equal, Untouchability is a crime, Taking dowry is bad, etc,.
Step 2. Take some actors (your family members will suffice) and make them shout these messages as loud as possible for 2 hours. Don't worry about acting or story or screenplay. The jury is anyway not going to watch your film.
Step 3. Just to make sure that this is not an absolute teaching class, put some background score (anything will do) & add a couple of songs.
Step 4. Send this to the Nandi awards. (You can also send this to national awards because who knows how your luck is going to be.)
Step 5. There is 95% chance that you will get the Nandi award fot Best film on national integration.
I gave this a 3, only because the director definitely had some good intentions & the film has heart (but sadly nothing else).
Seriously people, even if somebody forces you, don't watch this. Instead, go once again for that amazing 1955 film Kanyasulkam starring N.T.R as Gireesam and Savitri as Madhuravani (Unforgettable performance). I said once again because I assume you have seen it atleast once & if not, see it within the next week or else you are an idiot.
Love to know if anybody really really felt this as an interesting watch,