The Sheer Joy of Life in ‘Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi?’

April 24, 2020:

Early this week, after an exhausting day of working from home, I spoke to my friend and fellow blogger Sai Sagar. Like most of our conversations, it was primarily about films. That conversation, though, spun around life during this lockdown period, and one film. As you are aware, the world has come to a screeching halt and has been standing still for the last couple of weeks. There’s no movement, literally and figuratively. Airlines are running into bankruptcy while organizations are unable to keep the cash flow running. Salary cuts and lay-offs are the inevitable aftertastes inching towards a colossal global impact. All the fuzz owing to what? Because the whole world paused its operations? Times like this expose how fragile the entire world is. Speaking of this delicacy, Sagar said:

“I was in a metro station the other day, before all the hell broke loose. Came down through the lift, walking towards the exit gate, and I saw this horde of people, indulged in the mobile phones they were holding in hand. Not a single person had a sense of the surrounding? Just walking towards the exit gate, a destination, as a swarm. That’s when I asked myself, and I’m not making it this up – Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi? (What happened to this city?)”

This is a question I ask myself quite often. Irrespective of where you hail from, it’s highly probable that we share the same mind space at the moment. A couple of weeks back, we were running behind something. A couple of weeks from now, we will start running, again. Even after witnessing first-hand that everything we stand for is feeble, we will get back to it. The quarantine period is a breather to many, an essential one. People are spending time with their families, which was otherwise confined to #WeekendTime and #FamilyTime. After discerning the importance of staying alive as the elemental need in order to achieve our goals, I hope we start taking ‘living’ seriously and ‘life’ lightly. That’s exactly what the 2018 Telugu film, Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi slapped on our face. 

The Tharun Bhascker-directorial is an ethnographic achievement, drawing heavily from his own life. The end-product is one of the most personal films to come out of the country that’s so heavily obsessed with ‘larger-than-life’ that its stories often overlook the yardstick to measure the scale and span of actual life. On this premise,

Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi is life.

Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi is a mood that made me wish it persisted along.

Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi is a feeling that I wanted for the rest of my life.

Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi is a humble reminder to stop taking yourself too seriously.

Mostly set in exteriors, with four friends continually sticking together – again, both figuratively and literally – the film is not just the opposite of our lives/daily-routines during the quarantine period, but an even bigger contrast to regular lives before COVID-19 said, “Bitch please, stay home or die coughing”. 

The end-note of the film is of exponential potency, and placing it here serves the entire purpose of this piece.

It says “నచ్చిన మనుషులతో నాలుగు మెతుకులు అన్నం తినుకుంటా నచ్చిన పని చెయ్యడం రా లైఫ్ అంటే”

The most important end-note in the history of telugu cinema.

It translates to “Life is all about surrounding yourself with people you like, good food, and doing work you cherish”

That’s it. A ton of wisdom in a buddy-comedy. Pretty odd, right?

Anyone who realizes the aforementioned facet of life is truly lucky, as there is nothing more to life beyond that. I, myself, have always been a ‘serious guy’. I mistook seriousness for determination. I loathed the backbenchers during engineering. Looking back two years later, all of us have arrived at the same point. The point is right now. Yes, pay scales vary, but is the currency of the utmost value to trade for joy? Yes, to an extent, if your definition of joy lies in substantial terms.

Peeking inside, though, it’s void.

If you haven’t seen the film, these are the four characters through which the story unveils through a life lesson.

Karthik – The embodiment/representation of today’s millennials, to whom success is gauged on materialistic fundamentals, i.e. the bungalow, and the bank balance, among other fiscal merits.

Vivek – An ever agitated personality who comes off as a pain-in-the-ass, with his fixation to do only what he likes.

Uppi – A timid editor, who although lacks the anger-expression when asked to pull off arduous tasks, but has the conviction needed in life.

Kaushik – A consistent reminder that life is supposed to be cherished, while not making it only about celebration.

(L-R) Vivek, Uppi, Kaushik, and Karthik

While all of them, except Karthik, appear chilled out about life, their way of life is not be taken for ‘laid-back attitude’ or ‘uninspired’ life. That’s how I mistook people, with a chilled-out nature. Now, I realize, no matter how serious one is, everyone will end up in the same boat. So, save the solemnity. If I could empathize with them, Kaushik would be my spirit animal, while I would fall between Uppi and Karthik. Success to many of us, means substantial terms, like Karthik, but is it worth the gamble at the expense of happiness? A generation above us (the 20-somethings), would argue crying tucked in the soft blanket of a king-sized bed while eating pineapple cake in the air-conditioned room of your beach-facing villa is better than crying in a 1-BHK. But why cry, in the first place? If that’s what you want, great! Work towards it. If happiness is all you want, refer to the aforementioned end-note.

Unlike other coming-of-age, soul-finding stories, the characters of Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, don’t find their calling while on a vacation in an exotic country. The fact that they cannot afford a trip to one such country, and in-fact are practically jobless, yet are full of life and joy should be a life-exercise to us.

While it is always a good time to cherish this lovely little movie, now is perhaps the best time to watch it and laugh at our misery/stupidity before the coronavirus abruptly interfered and asked us to calm down.

Ee Nagaraniki Emaidi is streaming on Netflix.

Further, here’s a lovely song from the film.

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