Director: Jayanth Gali
Cast: Bimal Kartheek Rebba, Akarsh Raj Bagavatula, Sanchitha Poonacha
Love Life & Pakodi is a love story between Rheya (Sanchitha Poonacha) and Arun (Bimal Kartheek Rebba). Like all boy–girl love stories in our cinema the question is whether the two would get together in the end—but here the journey is different. It's a bit like Mani Ratnam's OK Kanmani where a boy and girl are in love but aren't necessarily willing to make the leap into commitment.
But OK Kanmani was based on plot and character. We saw the boy and the girl, but we also saw what was happening around them: there was an older couple who were a contrast to their relationship and there was an elder brother and his family. Love Life & Pakodi is exclusively character-oriented and the plot is basically non-existent. It's just about Arun and Rheya. Director Jayanth Gali wants to show the doubts and insecurities of the two without putting them in the context of other relationships or even society.
Arun is single and stays in his own posh apartment. In one of the early scenes, Arun is taking a shower and notices a clump of hair on the floor, but he still looks to the mirror and says to himself that there's still time. He's also, perhaps, a bit of a narcissist or at least he doesn't want to grow older too soon: he wants kids to call him anna, not uncle. When we meet Arun at this point, he's about to propose to Rheya and he is nervous about her saying no. He knows she doesn't want an arranged marriage but he doesn't have the patience to fall in love and go through all that rigmarole.
There's some nice filmmaking where one of Arun's ex-girlfriends, whom we meet in a flashback, is always shown in her own frame and never with Arun. She's the one who broke up with him and made him lose his faith in love. It's as if even when they were together, they weren't really together.
Characters in the film have interesting aspects to them. Arun has had sex at the age of sixteen. Rheya is not a virgin and no one cares about it. Older people move on after, say, the death of a spouse. I also liked the scenes where Arun "meets" Rheya. It's not a conventional meeting. It's a situation where you see someone at a distance who is upset or crying and you don't know whether you should approach them or leave them alone; the film captures such moments beautifully.
After about thirty minutes, something begins to feel off. The director is deliberately going for a specific kind of flow but there are a few things that don't help achieve this casual flow. While there's no problem with the performances, the staging and the pauses make it feel like there's a lot of dead air in some of the scenes. There's a lot of talk in the film, which makes sense because people talk all the time, but it also feels like some of these are the director's thoughts and not those of the characters. It needed to be done a bit more casually for us to feel that it was indeed the characters who had such ideas.
What really works is the film's modern take to life and relationships in today's societies (perhaps, ultra-urban societies). For instance, how nice is it that a girl doesn't want to stay with her single mother after she gets married. It's not selfishness, the girl would rather that her mother found someone and began a new chapter of her life. Or, take the example of this guy who has built a wall around himself after a betrayal. It takes a long time for him to even discuss this because some of us tend to keep these things so close to our heart that it begins to hurt. It's only when he talks about it to someone else that the wall begins to break.
Rheya's question to Arun when he proposes is: why do you want me all your life? She wants to know how he can be so sure about wanting her for his entire life. This is a question so many people have today and it doesn't come up in screenplays. But at times, I would have preferred the characters to not articulate so much. Sometimes, I would have preferred to see a face staring at a distance and make my own mind up about what he or she was thinking. In the language of the genre, I wanted to love Love Life & Pakodi and I ended up liking parts of it rather than the whole thing.