As I watched the film, I had flashbacks to the times my Telugu NRI relatives would flaunt their 'progressiveness', while also having separate cups for their house help. C/o Kancharapalem shows that open-mindedness is not necessarily about having the most education or experience but about having empathy for another person. That is all it takes for a person to change their perspective on life and love.
Being from Andhra Pradesh, I could wholly relate to many aspects of the film. The film is set in Kancharapalem, a small village in Vishakhapatnam, and a majority of the cast are natives. I cannot tell if it was because of the same reason, but the setting and the characters felt raw and authentic. It was almost as though the director-writer, Venkatesh Maha, filmed a documentary on life there. Everything from the gossip about a villager's marital status and the morning announcements by the village crier to how people address others of different religions: these are all things I still hear in my hometown.
The background score by Sweekar Agasthi (who also composed the soundtrack for Middle-Class Melodies) and the lyrics by Raghukul and Vishwa lend originality to the village and its people. As the pandemic prevented us from travelling, the music was a warm reminder of home, evoking a sense of nostalgia and belonging.
The film consists of four love stories. One is between two school children, Sundaram and Sunita. The second is between Joseph and Bhargavi, who are in their 20s. The third is between Gaddam and Saleema, in their 30s. And the last, and my personal favourite, is between a 49-year-old attendant Raju and his 42-year-old boss Radha, whom Raju dearly refers to as 'Madam'.
But Venkatesh Maha did not limit the storyline only to romance. He interweaves the gender, class and religious divides that persist to this day. He questions our hypocrisy when it comes to constantly making our decisions according to the society we live in to avoid embarrassment and conflict. Radha's daughter is the voice of reason in the film: she points out the blatant double standards as she sees them. Yet, none of this feels forced on the viewer. The nuances are scattered, the messaging is subtle and the reality hits deep. Almost to the point that makes one feel unsettled and uncomfortable. The film cuts back and forth between the four stories but pays enough attention to each one that we become invested in every character. So when the moments of heartbreak arrive, we are bound to feel every bit of it.
The song Asha Pasham, sung by Anuraj Kulkarni, Sweekar and Damini, comes towards the end of the film like a breath of fresh air. The lyrics loosely translate to,
"As your faith abandons you,
your tale remains unfinished.
Go with the flow of life and move on."
I feel this sums up what the film was trying to say. It is heart-warmingly simple and despite the tears in between, you will finish the movie with the biggest smile.