When the first look of debutant Srikanth Odela’s “Dasara” was released, it was written off as a “Pushpa Part 1” rip-off largely due to the similarities in the character designs of Nani’s Dharani and Allu Arjun’s Pushpa. And after watching both of the movies, we can say that the allegations aren’t entirely false. Dharani steals coal, while Pushpa steals sandalwood. Both of them have a very clear anti-police stance. There’s a secondary villain called Jolly Reddy (Dhananjaya) who has the hots for Srivalli (Rashmika Mandanna), which leads to him getting beaten up by Pushpa. Meanwhile, Chinna Nambi (Shine Tom Chacko) lusts after Vennela (Keerthy Suresh), which leads to his enmity with Dharani. But they start to differ in terms of Pushpa’s rise to the status of a full-fledged businessman and Dharani’s pretty generic story about revenge. So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about what “Dasara” is all about and what its ending means for the characters.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Casteism Centered Around The Silk Bar
The very first lines of “Dasara” paint a very vivid picture of the casteism coursing through the streets of Veerlapally. While those who are deemed upper caste are allowed to sit inside the Silk Bar (which is a tribute to Silk Smitha) and have their drinks, those who are deemed lower caste have to take their liquor from the window and sit outside. The politics are also centered around that very bar, as the person who owns it gets to be the head of the village. Shivanna (Samuthirakani) and his stepbrother Rajanna (Sai Kumar) form different parties to fight for the rights to the Silk Bar and hence the entirety of Veerlapally. Although the Hindi dub (which is the only version available in my city) doesn’t make it very clear, there’s probably a caste divide between Shivanna and Rajanna, which factors into the victory of the former and the outright ostracization of the latter. And since Shivanna partakes in casteism, the aforementioned practice regarding liquor distribution continues.
Despite hailing from a lower-caste background, Dharani and his group don’t discriminate. His best friend is Suri (Dheekshith Shetty), who is apparently upper-caste, and Dharani is in love with Vennela, who is also from an upper-caste background. Since Suri is in love with Vennela, Dharani buries his affection for her and ensures that Suri and Vennela get to stay together. Vennela’s mother opposes Suri and Vennela’s union because of Suri’s unemployed status. Dharani promises to make him the cashier of the Silk Bar by winning the cricket match (as that’s the winning prize), and Vennela’s mother says that that can work because Suri is anyway from the same caste as Vennela. Chinna Nambi appoints someone from his own caste as the cashier and tries to bribe Dharani to lose the match. Dharani does the exact opposite and gets Suri the job. But Chinna Nambi’s men cause a ruckus, which causes Dharani to step into the bar for the first time and beat everyone up. Dharani, Suri, and their group get arrested and are subjected to police brutality. That’s when Rajanna steps in and frees the guys. Seeing this, Suri, Dharani, and the rest decide to stand behind Rajanna in the upcoming election because, at least, he isn’t casteist.
Misogyny In Veerlapally (And The Writing)
From the get-go, it’s established that the women in Veerlapally have to bear the brunt of the men’s alcoholism. In fact, when NTR puts a ban on alcohol, the women welcome it because that means the men will be sober, and it’ll put a stop to their cycle of abuse. When Shivanna and Chinna Nambi restart the distribution of alcohol, even the women start to drink in order to deal with the devolving situation of Veerlapally. Later on, when Rajanna decides to fight for the position of “sarpanch” (head of a village), he addresses all the women regarding their decision to never vote. They think that no matter who is the leader of Veerlapally, they are never going to solve the issue of alcoholism there because that’s what the men want, and that’s what keeps Shivanna and Chinna Nambi in power. Hence, the women have no reason to vote. Rajanna promises to bring change, and that’s why the women begin to vote again, thereby scripting Rajanna’s victory. In addition to all this, there’s a sense of irony as the ring or the earring on the portrait of Silk Smitha on the wall of the bar is highlighted according to the owner’s party symbol (Shivanna’s symbol is the ring, and Rajanna’s symbol is the earring).
However, the women in the story of “Dasara,” especially Vennela, are never given any kind of agency. They are either the victims of patriarchal figures or propagators of patriarchy. For example, despite being a teacher, Vennela’s ultimate goal is to get married. When Suri dies, the women of the village give Vennela the appearance of a widow. Even before her tears have dried up, Dharani marries Vennela because he doesn’t want her to be a widow and since he has loved her since they were kids. The women around Vennela tell her to fall in love with Dharani, as he isn’t pushing her to be physically intimate with him and is only treating her as his friend. Then, Chinna Nambi sexualizes her, and, of course, her “honor” is saved by Dharani, which eventually causes her to fall in love with him, possibly a few months after her husband’s death. Yes, that’s about it. What kind of hellish writing is this? If you are going to say that the misogyny perpetrated by men and women is realistic and the entire point of the story, I am going to disagree because this is turning out to be a shallow excuse for every piece of entertainment with loads of misogyny. Additionally, it’s disappointing to see Keerthy Suresh being wasted like this after “Saani Kaayidham.”
Display Of Religious Unity Until The Third Act
The village of Veerlapally partakes in casteism but not in communalism. Hindus and Muslims are neighbors. They drink and eat with each other. They play cricket with each other. They steal coal with each other’s help. They celebrate their wins and face the consequences of their actions together. When Chinna Nambi sends his men to terrorize and kill Suri, Dharani, and the rest of his group, they help each other out the best they can. While performing the final rites, the processions for the Hindu families and the Muslim families leave together, and then they carry out the rest of the ritual as per their respective religious practices. The wedding of a Muslim girl is celebrated with as much gusto as that of Suri and Vennela’s. And it happens with a sense of normalcy that should reflect in real life. But things are so different nowadays that such scenes need to be highlighted because a lot of filmmakers aren’t doing this for a variety of personal and professional reasons. With all that said, there’s a caveat whose proportions depend on where you stand ideologically.
Seeing “Dasara” in a vacuum or at a time when certain logos or slogans weren’t being weaponized probably wouldn’t have been all that triggering. But towards the end, a particular slogan and a particular type of flag are featured very prominently, which makes the aforementioned religious unity look like a smokescreen to hide the filmmaker’s biases. Yes, a counter argument can be made that Dharani’s revenge is noteworthy because it shows an individual from a community that is deemed lower-caste going up against a casteist, upper-caste individual, thereby recontextualizing the fictional story of “Ramayana.” The movie is, after all, titled “Dasara,” which is the Telugu interpretation of “Vijayadashami,” the day Lord Rama defeated Ravana. However, I think you’ll find that counterargument to be wrong because there have been reports of people overlooking casteism if it helps them promote communalism. And this erasure of religious unity in the third act and prioritizing one religion over another in such an overt way feels purposeful. I sincerely hope that this is just the filmmaker’s skewed perspective and not a reflection of what is happening in real life.
‘Dasara’ Ending Explained: How Does Dharani Solve Veerlapally’s Alcoholism?
After learning about how Chinna Nambi wants to use Vennela, Dharani wants to kill him once and for all. So he goes off and gets a bunch of weaponry made. When Dharani’s grandmother finds out about it, she asks him to bury it as she fears that he’ll lose his life trying to kill Chinna Nambi and end up making Vennela a widow again. Dharani apparently listens to her. But little does anybody know that he has buried the weapons at the site where Ravana’s effigy is going to be burned. On the titular day, Dharani doesn’t take the first step, but Chinna Nambi and his goons do. So, Dharani and his group take up arms and kill every goon in their field of view. Before Dharani can slay Chinna Nambi, the police arrive and try to take him away. However, he thwarts them and beheads Chinna Nambi, just like Nambi beheaded Suri. For that, Dharani goes to jail for seven whole years. At the end of “Dasara,” Dharani returns to Veerlapally (a moment that has echoes of “Karnan”) and realizes that the Silk Bar is the root of all evil. Therefore, he ignites it and turns it into ashes. Vennela, who has been waiting for him all this time, embraces Dharani, and the credits start to roll.
So, if you look at all this from a very simplistic perspective, then yes, Dharani has solved Veerlapally’s alcoholism. He says that the men of the village should be ashamed for making the women go through such tough times. That feels like a very feminist stance too. But since that theme of feminism is not at all present in writing, it comes off as performative. The anti-alcohol message seems surface-level when you think about it just a little because of how the plot keeps oscillating between associating the downfall of Veerlapally with alcohol and the tyranny of Shivanna and Chinna Nambi. I am assuming that at some point during the writing, directing, or editing process, the filmmakers realized that if they made “Dasara” all about how politicians use alcohol to fog the minds of their voters, they wouldn’t be able to create those “massive” action sequences. A movie like “Jai Bhim” would beg to differ. However, we can presume that’s the reason why Odela goes for the generic “good man kills a bad man for a woman” angle, without even considering how the internal change in Dharani is going to rub off on the village folk. And if there isn’t any systemic change, then all that sloganeering is going to amount to nothing.
What Should We Expect From ‘Dasara 2’?
As for the chances of a “Dasara 2,” well, it all depends on the success of this movie and if there are more stories to tell. At the time of writing this article, “Dasara” is faring quite well. Regarding unresolved plot threads, a sequel can rely on the good old “revenge is a never-ending cycle” theme. Although Chinna Nambi is dead, Shivanna and Chinna Nambi’s wife are very much alive. We don’t know what has happened in the seven years that Dharani has spent in jail. Despite his hatred for Chinna Nambi, it’s possible that Shivanna has developed a need for revenge after Dharani killed Nambi in plain sight. He probably doesn’t want to kill Dharani because of his love for Chinna Nambi, but in order to preserve the pride of his family name. As for Chinna Nambi’s wife, it’s apparent that she’s happy that the man is dead. However, she and Chinna Nambi’s offspring can choose to take revenge against Dharani after learning what he did to their father. If the sequel really wants to swing for the fences, they can turn Chinna Nambi’s wife into the matriarch of Veerlapally by having her make a beeline for the top spot. And if all those options are pretty predictable, Srikanth Odela can introduce a new villain who descends upon Veerlapally under the garb of actually taking care of its alcohol problem and then morphs into its tyrant leader, thereby forcing Dharani to make a choice between his family and the village again.