Director: Charlie Davis
Cast: Aparna Balamurali, Neeraj Madhav, Lakshmi Menon, Binu Pappu
Broadcast on: SonyLIV
Floating somewhere under the extremely smooth surface of Sundari Gardens is the story of a woman who must fight societal conditioning to be herself. Sundari (a serious Aparna Balamurali) works as a librarian at the same school she studied at, but we have a feeling she was destined for greater things in life. She was an upper class and talented cellist, but life had other plans and she now spends her time between home (where she has to look after her mother) and school where she knows the placement of every book. and author in his library. But unlike other movies that may have painted her as a tragic figure stuck in a tired routine, she’s quite lively. There is a smile on his face almost every day and it only gets wider when a new teacher named Victor (Neeraj Madhav) joins his school.
You might not feel it when you watch Sundari Gardens but there was a sincere effort to show her attraction to Victor through a feminine gaze. He’s not Arjun Reddy or some macho bad boy. He’s sweet, gentle and loving and seen through his eyes, there’s a maturity to how that connection is created. The point that adds the most weight to this otherwise empty film is how it deals with the concept of divorce. Which means when Sundari reveals to Victor that she’s divorced, there are no loud gasps or long cello solos to underscore the moment. It is what it is and what is most encouraging is the flippant way Victor reacts to this information. Equally simple is how the movie doesn’t make much of the fact that she drinks too. Take into account the dynamic she shares with the other men in her life and you can feel that these insights might have actually come to something.
On the one hand, the film is gentle and careful to never judge its protagonist, but the same cannot be said for the film’s other woman. We meet Sundari’s co-worker who shares a similar fondness for Victor, but there’s hardly any dignity in the way this relationship is shown. She comes across as small and juvenile, not fitting the film world. You find that the same stereotypical notions dominate the writing, even making other female characters appear artificial and lifeless. You feel it in the way Evil Step-Sister™ behaves just like Evil Step-Sister™ and you can even make the case for the way a potential Step-Mother talks and sounds like she just walked out of a room. a television series .
All of this makes the movie a bit frustrating. There’s hardly anything you can call craftsmanship and even in the way the first half uses a series of montages, you’re left with a severe lack of ideas. As a result, even the film’s progressive points can only be seen as isolated points, never quite evolving into emotional events that leave an impact. Without much to say and without a nice new way to say it, Sundari Gardens is simply an extended drama that takes forever to get to its tiny point.