Director: Rupak Ronaldson
Cast: Thiruveer, Pavani Karanam, Bunny Abiran, Sai Prasanna, Arjun Krishna, Shruthi Riyan, Buddarakhan Ravi
In every great film, there comes one point—a sequence, a scene, a shot, or at times, a single moment—that assures us that we are in the hands of a tasteful filmmaker. That point in Pareshan arrives nearly 25 minutes into the film when Isaac (Thiruveer), an ordinary youth from Mancherial in Telangana begins to develop feelings for Sirisha (Pavani Karanam) at the launch event of a locally produced music video named ‘Musi Musi Navvula Manjula’. This song, conceived as a peppy dance number by the youngsters of the town, suddenly transitions into a melodious version as the scene segues into montages of Isaac and Sirisha falling in love. Moreover, this entire song sequence is bookended by the dialogues of a local news anchor named Rajitha. There’s something about this simple but delightful sequence, which places great emphasis on music and its variations, that instantly affirms that Rupak Ronaldson is crafting this film with so much confidence and style, although the latter quality is not conspicuous in every frame and scene. The style and its motive are to create frames and scenes that look deliberately raw or say, un-stylised. The people, their faces, voices, their clothes, the colours in the frames, their houses… everything looks real. Yet, the premise is painted in outlandishness and garnished with just the right amount of quirk and silliness. Pareshan manages to balance its eccentricity with grounded nature and how!
It’s interesting that Pareshan is releasing just a week after Mem Famous, a film about three aimless youngsters from a Telangana village trying to make an identity for themselves. Pareshan’s central conceit too entwines itself with the direction of its protagonist Iscaac's life as we saw in Mem Famous. Likewise, the characters in both films share nonchalance about life and a conflict—financial burden. In Pareshan, money plays a crucial role. At one point, Isaac is preached about priorities and reminded that human life is more important than money. Just the fact that Pareshan emphasises the need for money in the young protagonist's life is a testament to how close the film is to reality. Basically, money is the cause of all the Pareshan (trouble) here.
Pareshan’s opening sequence—which can feel cluttered initially because there are too many things happening—establishes one point beautifully. On one hand, we see Tiger Seenanna, a local leader, protest against the liquor ban demanded by women (Remember Dasara? This one is wacky in its treatment thought). On the other hand, we see Isaac's middle-aged father, working in the dark coal mines, share with his colleague that he dreams to bid adieu to his ‘black-collar’ job and instead join a local evangelist named Deevena Kumar, donning a coat, once his son settles down. The man sells the bangles of his wife to procure some money that he plans to use to get his son a job. You see, in both the threads, there’s an overarching theme: priorities. One man is fighting for alcohol while the other toils for a secure and peaceful life.
The two elements introduced in the opening bits—alcohol and money—are the points that keep propelling the narrative forward. For instance, the film’s interval bang features Isaac waking up to learn that he lost his money when he was inebriated the previous night. Every time there’s a cause for celebration, drinking is the go-to option for Isaac and his friends, Maidhak, Pasha and Agam Satthi. When they are confronted with a major conflict, they resort to drinking to seek some comfort. The film doesn’t just portray alcohol as a one-stop solution but also as a reason for many of their problems. The film never romanticises alcohol; in fact, it only presents it as a normal part of this lifestyle. For instance, Tiger Seenanna casually asking an old woman in one of his pre-wedding ceremonies whether she had enough alcohol and encouraging her to have one more beer portrays how normal the consumption of alcohol is. Also, it represents the cultural fabric of this place, where a gang includes Hindus, Muslims and Christians, without ever making it a big deal or trying to grab our attention because that’s how reality is, simple.
Pareshan has some profound layering but it's not all serious and philosophical. It is one hell of a comic joyride with the oddball characters and weird situations offering plenty of rib-tickling amusements. The film wears its quirk and culture on its sleeve. For instance, the designations in the opening credits have a colloquial touch; ‘Additional Cinematographer’ is referred to as ‘Inkoka camera tho theesinodu (the one who shot with another camera)’. In the interval, the on-screen text reads ‘Poyi posukuni randi (Go, piss and come)’. The film leaves no opportunity to milk humour from its USP, its milieu. And of course, there are some incredibly hilarious stretches that make the most of its distinctive characters and weird situations. The stretch featuring Deevena Kumar’s worship song that mocks cheesy editing transitions is a riot. So is the slo-mo sequence in which Isaac is caught while performing a sound instrument in a funeral procession. And then to top it all off, there’s a shockingly dark but equally uproarious sequence involving an accident and a severed thumb. You see, there are no funny situations in the film; be it the stakes which are pretty high or the socioeconomic background the characters hail from, but the film still manages to be hysterical, thanks to its characters, the performances that bring them alive and the Yashwant Sagar’s fresh music that brims with buoyancy and life.
While subtlety is not what Pareshan aims for, it does derive some of its strongest moments from the simplistic nature of the life it portrays, be it humour-wise or on the drama front. Rajitha, Sathi’s love interest angrily saying she avoids oil food because they cause pimples, only to get tempted and end up having a bit of hot Punugulu, is a lovely moment. “Samosa thintava, Sirisha?” asks a timid Isaac on one of their dates. The innocence and the sweetness these simple interactions are laced with manage to put a big smile on your face. While the film is decidedly simple and real in its aesthetic, cleverly dodging the temptation to beautify frames, Rupak and DOP Vasu Pendem flaunt their visual game in the music video-like picturisation of ‘Where What Why’, capturing the uncertainty and anxiety Isaac and Sirisha undergo.
There are some moments in Pareshan that have such a realistic touch that they make you wonder if the performers were cognisant about the fact that their actions are being captured on camera. In the climax, a ruckus ensues at a wedding, just when the guests are being served a grand dinner. The camera spends just a second capturing a person enjoying his Mutton piece, oblivious to the fact that men are indulging in a physical altercation right behind him. To me, that shot encapsulates the spirit of Pareshan. It’s a scream of a moment. But it’s also something that could possibly transpire in real life.