Middle Class Melodies opens similar to the waking up of a lazy teenager from a small town middle-class family – eyes still shut, the ears slowly take in the sounds from the ambience. A father in hurry, a mother busy in chores, the mildly irritating cacophony of relatives, and music from a far-off tape recorder.
Anand Deverakonda, who plays Raghava, reminds one of a young Amol Palekar from the Golmaal and Chhoti Si Baat middle-of-the-road movie universe. The realistic, feel-good movie space, filled with everyday characters, is largely unexplored in the Telugu film industry and it might have just found its poster boy. MCM is about Raghava's journey to start a hotel business, but it is also so much more. It as much about his friend, who is not just a sidekick but has his own well-defined storyline. This movie is about his love story and his victory over his prejudices. It is also about Varsha Bollamma's Sandhya, the girl torn between an avaricious father and ambitious lover. Her love is not all about giving wings to her dreamy boyfriend to fly, it also anchors him steadily to the ground when the flight goes astray.
MCM is not a work of 'high art' where one looks for Bechdel tests and Brechtian alienations. It is a simple narrative that works because of the saccharine moments sprinkled through its run time. Like the Newton-esque enlightenment moment under the tree for Raghava, the realisation of the pitfalls of (astrological) prophesies for Gopal, or the innocent bawa-mardalu romance brewing between the lead pair. Even the uniquely tier-2 imagery of the curious onlookers around a brawl, blabbering blokes offering helping hands during crisis and the 'cellphone recharge' at the friendly neighbourhood grocer's is designed not to surprise or shock but for the audience to soak in the humour from the relatable situations.
An absence of the industry's usual suspects lining up as parents and friends makes the world of MCM believable. With relatively unknown faces onscreen there is a freshness that comes across in an otherwise old-fashioned plotline. Goparaju Ramana as Kondala Rao is the always disappointed and never shy father character that has been played by Kota Srinivas Rao and Thanikella Bharani for decades, but his expressions and realistic dialogue delivery make it interesting.
MCM is for Anand what Pelli Choopulu was for the elder Deverakonda, a delightful romantic comedy revolving around food and matchmaking. The film seems to acknowledge it as much by roping in Tarun Bhasker, the director of Pelli Choopulu, in a clever cameo. Watching Middle Class Melodies is like a weekend getaway to the countryside from the hustle-bustle of the city life. If you need a break from the seasons of Succession or the convolutions of The Crown, sit back and watch this movie with a hot chai and a plateful of
fritters bhajjis dipped in Bombay chutney.