Director: Sekhar Kammula
Cast: Naga Chaitanya, Sai Pallavi
Love Story, after being a big hit in the theatres, is now streaming on Aha. This film is, as the title says, a love story. The twist is that the love story is between an oppressed caste man and a woman of a dominant caste. He is a dalit and she is from an upper caste. The lead roles are played by Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi.
The opening of the film itself establishes that Revanth (Naga Chaitanya) is a dalit. For instance, he wants to get a haircut but the local salon would not allow him to and his mother has to cut his hair. Later, there is an incident at school where the boy happens to be a good dancer and he dances on stage. This impresses everyone and while they all applaud, one of the judges wants to give him money. But what does he do? He takes the coin and drops it on the boy’s hand because he doesn’t want to touch him.
Revanth grows up and becomes a Zumba instructor. Now, can anybody who dances well become a Zumba instructor? I personally don’t know the answer, but I wish there were a few scenes or at least one scene, where we see this person from the village learning about this unusual profession and decides to take it up. The same goes with Mouni (Sai Pallavi) where she does a very good dance performance, which is redundant to say in Sai Pallavi’s case, and the next minute, she becomes a Zumba instructor and Revanth’s partner.
I am not saying any of this is impossible but I am saying that I would have liked a little more convincing. For example, when someone goes from a village to Hyderabad, and becomes a software engineer, we don’t need to be convinced. But when it comes to Zumba, I personally felt that a little more detail would have helped. The whole film is like that as it takes a lot for granted or at least expects us to take things for granted.
The film is about a lot of things—caste, religion, how money is the great economic equaliser, and how necessary it is to make money to put yourself on par with the dominant caste. It talks about the dominant caste cheating others of their land and buying it for dirt cheap rates. Even in the love story bits between Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi talks about caste as the thing hanging over you forever. It becomes an identity, it’s slapped over you and never leaves you, wherever you go.
But everything exists at a superficial level as you don’t feel these issues the way you felt them in a film like Sairaat, which was actually a blockbuster. Maybe the idea was to make a lighter film but I really missed the lack of depth in all these issues. There is a fantastic scene, where Sai Pallavi goes to Naga Chaitanya and refers to him as ‘you’ people, the same way her forefathers referred to dalits. He is stunned because he thinks she was a friend, a business partner and they are falling in love. He is stunned because she is the last person he thought would say such a thing. But the scene is a wonderful example of how despite ourselves, sometimes we inherit the prejudices that our forefathers had. I wish there were more scenes that are subtle but also character building.
The one character who is written really well is Naga Chaitanya’s mother. She is a really strong woman. At a young age he says to her, “I wish my dad was still alive” and she says “I am still alive”. This is a terrific statement and it really defines the character who is also used at times for humour. She is strong throughout—she buys back a plot of land, she is a teacher, she moulds young minds. When her son says that he has fallen in love with a dominant caste girl, the first thing she says is “I will agree to this, but I lay one condition”. She clearly knows in her head what will happen, this is how wonderfully this character is written. Easwari Rao plays this mother character really well.
The leads are good as well. Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi are certainly watchable together. The film itself is quite watchable. It is not a bad film but given this director and this cast, I certainly hoped for more.