Director: Jayanth Gali
Cast: Bimal Kartheek Rebba, Akarsh Raj Bagavatula, Sanchitha Poonacha
"There's security in marriage. Good or bad, there'll be stability in your life," declares a character almost an hour and fifteen minutes into Love Life & Pakodi. This is a classic OK Kanmani argument where the woman and the man who prefer to not have a marital relationship in the beginning choose to get married in the end because they are afraid of losing each other.
Marriage is something that we (Indians) cannot miss. We see it all around us. We are made to believe that it's for a righteous cause. It doesn't matter if we're following the herd in this case. Even in liberal circles, people will look down upon you if you say that you're against the idea of marriage. This toothy conundrum isn't purely a matter of culture that runs through the veins of our nation alone, as it exists in the West also.
If you make up your mind to remain single, that's different. You'll still be questioned by the indubitable power of raised eyebrows, however. But if you're in a monogamous relationship with another person and decide to not shake hands on it officially in the eyes of society, then you'll be given a lesson on the sacredness of marriage. Love Life & Pakodi bats against this team of moral rights and wrongs. It takes an unconventional stand in a story that's rooted in the genre of romance.
Rheya (Sanchitha Poonacha) and Arun (Bimal Kartheek Rebba) are the principal characters that steer this movie. They don't exchange their phone numbers through passionately punctuated gestures. They just get closer over a period of time through the kaleidoscope of friendship. When the protagonists aren't attracted, like magnets, from the first scene that they spot each other, this is what they usually do. They slow dance their way into forming a union after spending a few days and nights in the company of booze and books.
Love Life & Pakodi is a modern take on love that talks about casual dating and the palpitating fears surrounding the death of a relationship. There's an unmistakable quality of an indie drama here, and you can see the couple having conversations in living rooms, cafes, and bars. The movie is shot in Bengaluru, which means that you'll hear some Kannada words every now and then.
Whenever KC (Akarsh Raj Bagavatula) dropped the Kannada word of endearment, "Maga," while having a philosophical and drunken tête-à-tête with Arun, I was happy. I have grown up with that word in this garden city and it's pretty cool to catch it in a Telugu movie. Macha has already entered the Telugu dictionary via Tamil Nadu and now it looks like the time has arrived for Maga to finally join the club.
The sameness of the settings and the repetitive theme embedded in the narrative where Rheya weighs the pros and cons of marriage aren't exactly exciting. Malli Raava walked that tightrope in 2017 and the Kannada film Mundina Nildana also did that as recently as 2019. Usually, when people say "no" to going through the rigmarole of getting hitched, the panic button seems to emerge from the messy equations that their parents shared.
While you can relate to Rheya's pains and doubts about taking the big step, she doesn't bring up new points to support her alternative theory. Despite seeking advice from her mother, she keeps beating around the bush and fails to acknowledge the root of her misery. She doesn't want a legal document to dictate what she can – and cannot – do with Arun. But is that enough?
Arun and Rheya don't discuss their financial positions either. How can they live together and not have disagreements over what to spend on? Have they ever thought of investing in a property five, or maybe ten, years down the line? Love Life & Pakodi wrestles with the concept of marriage and whether it works in today's world. The film would have been tastier had it gone deeper instead of just scratching the surface. There are many better romantic comedies out there that have dealt with a similar subject.
And apart from the ill-fitting twist that involves Arun's father and Rheya's mother, the downside to Love Life & Pakodi is Kartheek Rebba's spiritless performance. He neither underlines his words when he expresses his desire to marry Rheya, nor does he feel worried when she doesn't pick up his phone calls. For a movie that looks inwardly, these nuances are a must. They can, after all, make or break a film. And you can guess what happens here.