Awe was one of the first Telugu films that I actually watched without scrolling on my phone out of boredom. As many families do, we went to the theatre on the weekend to watch a movie, and I was prepared to be on my phone while a typical masala flick played on screen. I didn’t care for the title, the cast, the songs, or anything else because I was so used to seeing movies like Rabhasa, Dookudu, and Mirchi, but I was pleasantly surprised by Awe. Within the first ten minutes, I put my phone away, and actually watched the movie.
Awe isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill Telugu film. It deals with themes of abuse and psychological issues through different, interconnected stories. The first story introduced is the relationship between Radha (Eesha Rebba) and Krishnaveni (Nithya Menen). Radha introduces Krishnaveni to her parents in a distinctly pink restaurant. Her parents are shocked that their daughter is a lesbian, and their orthodox mindset makes it hard for them to accept the relationship. Irony and contrast is present throughout the story, from the pink tones of the restaurant and Radha, to the dark tones of Krishnaveni’s personality and Radha’s past, which is filled with trauma and sexual abuse.
My favourite aspect about this film are the references to Hindu mythology. Moksha (a reference to freedom) and Yogi (a reference to yogis), are both shown performing magic tricks, and even dealing with spirits (which is most likely Krishna, since Yogi blew out his deepam). The reference of a Yogi connects film to the time travel story of Shiva and Parvathi. In Hindu mythology, Shiva and Parvathi were seen as a yogi pair, which is ironic because Parvathi IS Shiva in the movie. In the story about the lesbian relationship, the name “Radha” refers to the goddess of love. In the story about Nala, the chef, Nala is a reference to a character from the Mahabharata who also happened to be a great cook. It’s a hilarious play on the mythological character, because Nala depends on youtube videos to cook in the movie.
All of these references connect to my favourite character (arguably, the only character) in the film: Kali, played by Kajal Agarwal. Each emotion controls Kali in the film, making her slip into different personas related to the emotion. After eating a distinct “Death by Chocolate” dessert, she commits suicide to destroy the “evil” within her. Every single personality of hers falls along with her in that restaurant. It’s an oddly peaceful ending, considering the loss of one (and many) characters at once.
There is never a moment in the film where a character seems heroic or immortal. Everyone is good, everyone is bad. Every character seemed just as innocent and vulnerable as they were cunning and clever, which, when compared to the dozens of star-centric films in the broader context of Telugu cinema, makes Awe a fresh, genre-busting film.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.