Created by: Naani Bandreddi
Cast: Kivish Kautilya, Darahas Maturu, Rohit Krishna Varma, Bharadwaj, Srinivas Rami Reddy, Alluri Pavan Kumar
What can you say about a gang of twenty-something men that hasn’t been said already? They are the typical protagonists that are a vocal part of a majority of Indian movies and TV shows. LOL Salaam is undoubtedly a great pun on ‘Lal Salaam’ and for that alone, creator Naani Bandreddi deserves to get a few brownie points. But the show, from the beginning, seems as though it’s intended to be a product that can only be consumed in bits and pieces. A running gag is what holds two ends of the series together. And, sadly, Bandreddi and his team don’t make the most of it.
A political issue burns at the heart of LOL Salaam and the narrative is inserted with a funny pacemaker to generate laughs. It’s a roundabout way of bringing your attention to the atrocities that are being committed against the people who live in secluded areas. And, in this case, a village, that’s not too far from the city of Hyderabad, lies at the center of a politician’s greedy plans.
Reddy (Kivish Kautilya), Naidu (Darahas Maturu), Varma (Rohit Krishna Varma), and John (Bharadwaj) decide to put an end to their woes by planning to go on a short trip to a waterfall. Yeah, your guess is right. They’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug. Their problems, from which they itch to move away, aren’t really, what you might call, the end of the world. They’re the usual suspects – a failed arranged marriage setup, a failed interview, a failed relationship, and a failed attempt at not being able to recite the Bible verses, respectively.
Even though they blame such heartbreaking losses, they don’t appear to be burdened with melancholy. They just need this quick getaway to perhaps take cute pictures and share some drinks and food around a campfire. At the last minute, while packing their bags, they’re joined by Khan (Srinivas Rami Reddy), another friend, and an elderly gentleman, named Babai (Alluri Pavan Kumar). Mind you, there’s no animosity among the members of the group. They get along with each other pretty well. Nonetheless, the jokes that spring from the fountain of their youth don’t travel beyond swearing.
In a buddy comedy such as this, there needs to be some sort of a flavor. You expect the friends to pull each other’s legs, or at the very basic level, make comments about how mundane their lives are. You get none of that. LOL Salaam could have outperformed Tharun Bhascker’s Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi (2018) if it had got its formula right. Moreover, this looks like a subject that Ram Gopal Varma would have loved to cover in the 90s. A large chunk of the show unfolds in a forest where there’s no electricity. There’s darkness everywhere and the few stray lights that you spot emanate from mobile phones.
Apart from the blackness and the bushes, you never feel a sense of mystery. The characters are supposed to be surrounded by the unknown — they’re stuck in a place where their screams go unheard. The sounds and cries of the animals and birds could have been drawn in to make a stellar notebook of music, but Bandreddi lets go of that opportunity, as well.
When Reddy lands himself in trouble literally, the matter becomes so serious that he can’t even take a step forward or backward. He needs to stay put until he’s rescued by an expert. It is, as you can see, a critical situation. And if you insist on doffing your hat to the tone of the show, I would join you. It’s a miracle that it stays the same despite treading on an unsteady path. In the later episodes, Khan gets mixed up with a couple of villagers who get ready to sacrifice a goat, and Varma goes on a solo journey to find somebody who can help his pal.
In one scene, Khan tells the villagers that believing in superstition won’t do any good to them. And, in another, Naidu tries to reason with a group of naxals. Although these conversations are meant to be well-intentioned, you won’t be able to smell the truthfulness, as they don’t get enough screen time. They are passing dialogues, that’s all. How can they move mountains? How can they change behavioral patterns? That way, LOL Salaam doesn’t work hard. It works smartly, albeit in tightly controlled portions.
Also, since the bar is too low, LOL Salaam may come across as a slightly better show. But you have to keep in mind that this has been a terrible month for Telugu entertainment. While YouTube is mostly inundated with subpar content, Aha is transforming into an exclamation mark of disappointment. Maybe, we need to get used to this kind of new normal, too.