The G.O.A.T. classic film Sankarabharanam from the perspective of a Generation Z youthI'm the kind of person who has to watch the film from the title sequence till the end credits. In the title credits of the film, K Viswanath garu wrote “Na Sodarudu, Chiranjeevi SP Balasubramanyam Ku Naa Aasissulu". (meaning “Blessings to my dear brother SP Balasubrahmanyam”). It's heartening to read something like that at the beginning of the film, because I've always seen people dedicating their film or thanking others but never seen someone blessing before. Now, coming to the movie, let’s start with the film’s unusual male lead.Sankara Sastry - An Unusual MelodyThe hero in this movie is not a typical Telugu film hero. He’s not sturdy, he doesn't have funky mannerisms, he doesn't fight, he’s not the ‘protector of the realm’, he doesn't have a powerful walk and he doesn't dance around the trees too, instead, he's a middle-aged widower and a classical singer who carries the moniker Sankarabharanam for being proficient in performing the raga of the same name. Sankara Sastry (JV Somayajulu) would be a joke in cinematic language if we're looking at him as a typical, commercial Telugu hero, because an evergreen hero, even though middle-aged, behaves like a teenager. So what makes Sastry so special? He is shown as is, but with a purity in his voice, in his art, and in his heart. Unlike the regular depictions of upper caste brahmins as people having strong prejudices, in the early 80s, it was refreshing to see Sastry’s humanistic portrayal as a person so deeply connected to his art form that he sees divinity in everything and everybody around. He doesn't discriminate against people based on their caste or social class or family legacy, which is what art is, right!? To him, be it a renowned classical singer, the daughter of a prostitute, or an orphan child… all are the same. That’s not it. We naturally tend to like Sastry, but do you know the reason why we love him, even today – Tulasi.Tulasi - An Uncommon GraceI was first shocked to realise that the female lead, Tulasi (Manju Bhargavi), is the daughter of a prostitute, because this too is unconventional for me to witness in the 80s mainstream Telugu cinema. What stands out about Tulasi is that she doesn't talk much, but says everything through her eyes, which are a window to her soul, and dance is the way she communicates with the divine. I haven’t seen a Goddess in real life, I don’t even know if they exist, but if they do, I think they would look like Tulasi – a very normal, simple-looking and a loving woman, just like all our moms at home. Wait, did you imagine a heavily adorned, super powerful, weapon-holding, white-skinned woman sitting on something when I said ‘Goddess’? Sorry, no.Aesthetic Unorthodoxy of The Bond Between Sankara Sastry & TulasiAbsolute surrender is the highest form of worship, and devotion is the purest form of love. Tulasi embodies that devotion and worships Sankara Sastry, whom she sees as an epitome of music. The first time she sees Sastry perform live, she imagines herself dancing to his rendition of Sankarabharanam (meaning ‘The Jewel of Shankara’). The scene where Sankara Sastry catches a glimpse of Tulasi for the first time is a delight to watch. Period. There are no dialogues, just the feel. They don’t say ‘Hi’ or ‘DM’ each other, they just use art as a means of conversation. She dances to his song, and he continues the song for her to dance, and what better way there is to show a platonic meet cute between two artists and what an inspiring moment of ‘Live & Let Live’.You know how some folks were in those times and even today are, they're snooping all the time, criticising, trying to label, find faults and full of prejudices based on religion, caste, creed, class, colour, etc. But Sankara Sastry is not that. When people sneer at him for his association with Tulasi and his efforts to enable her to lead a dignified life, Sastry doesn't say a word. He appears to be a man who knows his worth and feels that he doesn't have to explain himself to the people around him. I loved it when he says that only god knows the bond that he and Tulasi share and he's only answerable to god and not to anybody else. This is the kind of poise that a desirable man should have, don’t you think?Heroism hit me differently when Tulasi endures the suffering caused to her by a landlord, but kills him right away when he kicks the photograph of a man she’s devoted to. When she rushes to Sastry and falls on his feet with blood-drenched hands, he doesn’t lose his balance. He understands her without a word. Now that’s a special bond I've never seen before coz everything needs to be communicated in our times, and it's so rare that I still wonder if such kind of relationships exist nowadays. Madhava, The Bro BuddyA special mention should be made of Madhava (Allu Ramalingaiah), a true friend who always stands up for his buddy. Unlike other people around Sastry, he doesn't see Tulasi and Sastry’s bond as an illicit relationship, in fact he believes that the bond they share is beyond great, irrespective of how society around him perceives it, including his wife. You know the kind of friend who stays with you no matter what, who understands you as nobody does, and who is your support system. Find yourself a Madhava, Period.Music Is EverythingIt'll take another article to write just about the music in the film, which I’m not doing and can’t do. But I'd like to share how I felt about the music of Sankarabharanam. I’m a Swiftie, an ardent fan of Taylor Swift, there’s not a single day that goes by without listening to her songs. I'm a huge fan of Pop, soft rock, and electropop. John Mayer, Selena Gomez, Troye Sivan, and Lauv are my go-to artists. I don't have many Telugu Songs in my playlist after 2010, only a couple of picks every year and the lyrics don't really make sense like they used to, they only rhyme well. Not that there aren't any good Telugu songs anymore but they often don't evoke a strong emotion like they used to. Trust me when I say this, when Sastry started with “Omkara Nadanu”, I understood why classical music is classic for a reason. I was enthralled. There's this line in the song "Advaita siddhiki amaratva labdhiki gaaname sopaanamu… satva sadhanaku sathya sodhanaku sangeetame praanamu", obviously, I did not understand the meaning when I first heard it and later found out what it meant, which is “To attain the state of Advaita (non-duality), to gain immortality, music is the pathway; to achieve Sattva Guna (purity & goodness) and to seek the truth, music alone is the life-giving force.” I've never read something so beautifully encapsulated in words, about music. Thanks to Veturi!When Tulasi's son Sankaram (Tulasi) enters Sastry's house, music reverberates everywhere in the house. If you show me this scene in any other film, I might laugh, but here, music echoing in every nook and corner of the house feels so real. In the scene where Sankara Sastry's neighbours, who are young folks, insult him and deride classical music, arguing that western pop is superior, Sastry hits back at the condescending attitude of the brats with such grace that it truly deserves a standing ovation. It’s a must-watch. Sastry’s words – "Music is divine, whether it's western or Indian, it has no language or regional barriers. It's an infinite flow of elixir" – have a special place in my heart.For The Gen ZsA wise man once told me to see things the way they are and not as something good or bad, and the climax of the film is just that. I’ve learned that not losing oneself but the identity of self, is probably what love is, and Tulasi is a creative incarnation of that selfless love and devotion. The story might’ve ended, their lives might've ended, but their love and music flows. 'Pure' is the word that best describes the bond of Sastry & Tulasi, and ‘Classic’ is this work which is more than just a film. It is “Na Bhuto Na Bhavishyati,” meaning, something that wasn’t made before and will never be made after.This is me coming back to my roots, after consuming world content. For all the Gen Z aesthetes and art lovers out there, watching Sankarabharanam feels like a warm hug.