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Providing vision to the sighted

Providing vision to the sighted

Through Srikanth’s story, the film highlights how we are blind to the potential of the differently abled.

Film: Srikanth

Director: Srikanth

Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Jyothika, Alaya F, Sharad Kelkar, Jameel Khan, Srinivas Beesetty, Anusha Nuthul and Srikant Manna

Nonika Singh

It goes for your tear ducts from the start. And we see most of the biopic through a film of tears. The inspirational journey of Srikanth Bolla, founder of Bollant Industries, is indeed moving, even if told in a linear fashion. As a rule, any story of a village boy making it to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) should be a lesson in how to make the ‘impossible’ possible. But when that boy happens to be a visually-challenged kid from Andhra Pradesh, his ability to transform ‘he can’t’ into ‘I can’ is bound to be infinitely more motivational.

Reason enough for Aamir Khan’s ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ hit song — ‘Papa Kehte Hain’ — to play with full gusto. Its 2.0 version composed by Aditya Dev plays like an anthem throughout.

Indeed, challenges in Srikanth’s life are likely to be manifold as well. More so in a country like India where it’s not just his parents (Srinivas Beesetty and Anusha Nuthul) who, on his birth, want to get rid of him but as a society, too, we have little space for such children. So much so that we learn through the movie that till Srikanth knocked on the doors of the court, as a subject science was not available to special students like him. Or that an airlines would not let him fly from Hyderabad to Boston all by himself.

Director Tushar Hiranandani of ‘Saand Ki Aankh’ fame and writers Jagdeep Siddhu and Sumit Purohit bring out the contrast in the debilitating system in our country and the enabling atmosphere in the US. Yet, Srikanth returns to his homeland partially at the behest of his then girlfriend Swathi (underplayed suitably by the lovely Alaya F). She is ‘normal’, as we, who often confuse eyesight with vision, see what is normal. India, however, is an apathetic country which might do its bit for charity, but will not move a muscle to empower such differently challenged people.

Only Srikanth has steadfastly refused to be a bechara. Socially inept but intrepid, as a student, too, he dares to call out the authorities in the special blind school where he is studying. Clearly, he can only expect more indifference. But then, great success stories like his always blossom under the wings of a fairy godmother hovering close by. His ‘Yashodha’ came in the form of his teacher Devika Malvade (Jyothika), who ensures that his dreams are not dashed to the ground and take a flight all the way to the US.

In the second half, yet another benefactor, his business partner Ravi Mantha (Sharad Kelkar) appears and finances Srikanth’s brainchild of eco-friendly recycled packaging material. Thus, Bollant Industries is born.

But it’s also time for some inward journey. Srikanth begins to suffer from delusions of grandeur. People’s reverential feedback to his achievements, ‘aap mahan hain’, truly gets to his head and he starts to act like a boor, as unconcerned about others’feelings as they were about his. Clearly, like talent, arrogance, too, is not a monopoly of any one individual.

Of course, through Srikanth’s story, the film highlights how we are blind to the potential of the differently abled and bats for the obvious theme of equal opportunity. And trust Rajkummar Rao to never miss an opportunity to get into the skin of his character.

While other actors, including the ever-dependable Sharad Kelkar and Jyothika as the compassionate teacher as well as Jameel Khan as the late President APJ Abdul Kalam, pitch in with their best, the film rides and soars on Rao’s malleable talent.

In the titular role, he becomes Srikanth, who with closed eyes visualises a level-playing field, first for himself and later for others like him. Wit and humour suffuse his performance, delivered with heart and craft. During his speech in the climax, the film wears its heart on the sleeve. An idea, says Srikanth, can’t be seen, so why the discrimination? And he refuses to accept the award in the special category. Besides, as he tells his love interest Swathi, don’t we experience all things beautiful with our eyes closed? Just as one of his arguments in courts goes — many before Newton saw the apple fall, only he ‘experienced’ the law of gravity — this true life story is meant to be experienced and not dissected.

Showing in theatres, with the tagline ‘Aa Raha Hai Sab Ki Aankhein Kholne’, the film does open our eyes to the remarkable journey of a visionary. Named after celebrated cricketer Krishnamachari Srikkanth, there is much to celebrate and learn from this entrepreneur’s life as told cinematically.