Sapta Sagaradaache Ello: Side B(2023) Movie Review: In Hemanth M Rao’s instantly celebrated “Sapta Sagaradaache Ello Side A,” Manu (Rakshit Shetty) and Priya (Rukmini Vasanth) were inseparable. It was until Manu’s one hasty decision put their relationship to an ultimate test. Apart from the film’s soaking poignant tone, the story seemed equally interested in the journey of his transformation. We went from seeing Manu’s indifference to the torture inflicted upon his own inmates to him actively taking charge of the violence. As Somma Anna (Ramesh Indira) rightfully puts it at a point, the jail indeed becomes a chamber for transformation for our protagonist. But his story of resilience merely informed the character arc without ever compromising the emotional heft of the story.
In Side B, we see Manu and Priya living lives that are antithetical to what they had idealized a decade back. Shedding the impish youthfulness he once had, Manu now walks out of prison. But he’s far from free, as he puts on the mask and goes around searching for his lover amidst the pandemic. This time around, the story unfolds primarily through the male lead’s eyes. Much against the advice of his jail counterpart, Prakasha (Gopal Krishna Deshpande), Manu enslaves his soul by sulking over the tape recordings of Priya.
“Nothing has changed,” Prakasha declares at one point despite knowing how everything has. It’s while stalking Priya, however, that Manu starts seeing Surabhi (Chaithra J Achar), a sex worker. He is drawn to her for her striking resemblance to Priya. But the two couldn’t be more poles apart; while Priya found the sea to be therapeutic, Surabhi finds it humid and sticky. That doesn’t stop Manu from vicariously living a life that he could’ve had with his soulmate. Will it ever seem feasible for Manu to eventually lead a life with Surabhi?
What starts off as an opportunity to meet his lover for one last time before deciding to move on soon becomes a journey of moral reckoning. Right when we’re lured into a reality that could’ve been had Manu and Priya united, the narrative deplores Manu for helping Deepak (J.P Tuminad) and Priya fix their family. While allowing the light to literally shine on Priya, Manu himself starts living in a house resembling a prison, with little space or light for him to settle in.
But that’s where the narrative cracks begin to seep in. While laying emphasis on Manu’s internal turmoil, the film pushes Priya to rest in the backdrop. The glaring disparity wouldn’t have been an issue had the first part played similarly from Manu’s perspective for the most part. But when writers Hemanth Rao and Gundu Shetty (who wrote and filmed the two films in one go) choose to conclude the story primarily through their male lead’s point of view, it doesn’t make his arc any more rewarding than it makes his other half feel redundant.
Or perhaps that was the point. During his first meeting with Surabhi, Manu closes his eyes while consummating their relationship. She rightfully pegs him off, imagining another girl. It takes a while for him to see Surabhi for what she is. Even when he does, it doesn’t stop him from asking her whether she likes to sing. It’s after Manu’s initial struggle with reconciliation that he comes to terms with the possibility of letting life serve him a second chance. When it arrives, we are already made aware of the impending doom this tragedy-struck mortal will bring along.
Most of these narrative shortcomings are compensated by other filmmaking aspects of Side B. As the credits say, this is very much a film by Hemanth and his team. The sort of technical control each crew exhibits is nothing short of astounding – especially Advaitha Gurumurthy’s cinematography. It hits home the sort of limbo Manu finds himself in, melancholically aching for his love while being stuck in the grimy underbelly of Bangalore. Composer Charan Raj and co-editor Sunil S Bharadwaj display scenes that seamlessly intercut without ever diluting the pace of the story.
Ultimately, Side B takes a different kind of tonal approach with its story by ruminating on the price the lead couple would pay for the ten years that separate the two films. While it may justify most of the choices the screenplay makes, the glaringly problematic read of the male lead coming across as a guardian spirit while relegating the female lead to the sideline may offset the accomplishments of Side A. While from a filmmaking perspective, this does come across as a superior film, the wistful charm of the first film stayed with the audience because it felt earnest.
Regardless, Hemanth’s knack for capturing the enchanting nature of love while retaining the melancholic longing arising from the blue expanse of his thematic idea remains riveting. Manu’s unconditional love for Priya persists, even after seemingly turning into a cold and tormented person. That’s because, like the conch shell that becomes a recurring motif through the two films, his soul, too, resounds with the sounds of the never-ending expanse. It’s in this subliminal space where the catharsis comes crashing in.