'Balagam' hits the cinemas this Friday (March 3). Here is our review of the movie.
The film is set in a Telangana village. The time is present. Komarayya (Sudhakar Reddy), an old man, breathes his last three days before the engagement of his grandson Sailu (Priyadarshi). Now, Sailu is hard-pressed for money. He has to urgently clear loans to the tune of Rs 10 lakh and, for that, he needs dowry money. Komarayya's untimely demise puts his engagement in danger. Without getting engaged, he won't receive the dowry money.
Komarayya's death also brings in its wake a host of troubles in the family. Sailu's father and his estranged sister's husband have their own set of problems with each other. Will the old man's death mean anything to this wounded family where strained relations reign supreme?
"Specific form of joint family arrangement (brothers along with their spouses and kids living under the authority of parents in the same home and common kitchen) is the ultimate killer of mental peace. It breeds jealousy, unnecessary feuds and incessant rivalry over petty reasons," a Twitter user named Satish Verma tweeted recently. Ever since this reviewer read the truth bomb, it got him thinking about the sociological implications of the Indian family system. Although joint families have technically been fading, emotionally, they are still alive in India. We may not live under one roof, but our emotional bonds are joined. 'Balagam', the film under review, proves this social reality beyond doubt. Importantly, it doesn't do so without getting preachy.
Directed by debutant Venu Yeldandi (he is better known as Venu Tillu, the comedian), 'Balagam' rises above conventional script-writing rules by doing away with the need for a lead pair, a love track, and other run-of-the-mill norms. Priyadarshi appears to be a lead man at first, but he later becomes a supporting actor.
Characters are money-minded or naive or just plain loud. The death of the patriarch results in performative death rituals. The women cry the way they cry because everyone cries that way in their villages. Some of them are least bothered about Komarayya. They are there to show solidarity with his closest family members. You find all this funny up to a point. After a point, you like that the neighbours are there to show empathy. In today's times when human selfishness has reached pathological levels, even this much should deserve our respect. See, the bar is too low!
The conversations between some family members, who are seeing eye-to-eye for the first time in years, are realistic and occasionally funny as well. Director Venu, who has also written the movie, doesn't resort to bland speeches. There are no speeches that transform the equations between family members in a jiffy because there is no hero in the film. This is no 'Shatamanam Bhavati'.
The attempt to make 'Balagam' a musical drama is praiseworthy. 'Balarama Narasayyo', composed by Ram Miryala, is about celebrating the death of Komarayya. Despite the film-style music, the visuals and the artists manage to make things look natural. The first song is a tribute to village life, sung with gusto by Mangli.
The character played by Kavya Kalyanram of 'Masooda' fame is slightly milked to offer escapist entertainment. However, as the story progresses, we realize that the direction of the story is something else. The pathos song in the finale is heart-rending.
On the flip side, the emotional arc of Priyadarshi's character could have been handled in a better way. At 131 minutes, the film slows down in the middle portions.
'Balagam' is a village-based drama with no hero or heroine as such. Watch it for its delicacies and the truth bombs it delivers. The message that it is better to rein in petty egos than be sorry is profound.