Priyadarshi, Kavya Kalyan Ram and Sudhakar Reddy in the Telugu film ‘Bulagam’
I Balagamdebut director Venu Yaldandi’s Telugu film Dehi is set in rural Telangana, a woman tearfully recalls how a dying old man always relished the tea she offered him and two more spoonfuls of sugar. asked and also inquired if she was cooking fish. Peloso. It’s hard not to crack up as she says this because of what’s happened before. An old man dies and a ragtag group of villagers mourn him with high drama, opening the stage for laughter. Over the next two hours, the narrative presents unfolding human behavior, complete with inflated egos that can break family ties over simple issues.
Kumaraya (Sudhakar Reddy) is not a well-liked grandfather in the village. He is empathetic but also oblivious to the impact his quick words and actions have on those around him. Acharya Venu’s camera takes us to rural Telangana with its hills, fields and houses as Bhimas Cicerolio’s poignant ‘Maa Oru Pelituru’ unfolds on a day in the life of Kumaraiah. Sudhakar Reddy plays the role of Kumaraya with an easy demeanor, convincing in his character’s exuberance and melancholy. Soon, we’re curious about what’s in his bag that he holds dear.
Cast: Priyadarshi, Kavya Kalyan Ram, Muralidhar Goud
Directed by: Venu Yaldandi
Music: Bhimas Cesarolio
Kumaraya’s sudden death brings together his sons, daughters, their children, extended relatives and the villagers. Grandson Silo (Priyadarshi) who was expected to be betrothed, get a hefty dowry and pay off debts, is shattered. Elsewhere, a tailor (the director doing the honors for a short, interesting part) goes into utter shock and repeats a couple of lines that are both funny and poignant.
Venu Yaldandi uses the death of the elder, the funeral rites and the rituals that follow to depict family politics. Death becomes an excuse for many feasts with alcohol. A half-baked romance collapses only to open the stage for a new one, and someone fights on the ground. In short, life takes a 360-degree turn when the binding force of family is lost.
Hindi movies like Ram Prasad’s Tehravi And Pigletand Kannada film the bed His exploration of death and family politics comes to mind, but this is new territory in Telugu.
Balagam It also turns its lens on how women bear the oppression of men who dictate the norms of engagement in the family. While the humor wears off after a point, the drama around the rituals feels strained. Nevertheless, these sections serve the purpose of making villagers and family members look inward and find answers to whether they are truly grieving for a departed soul.
Priyadarshi is not new to playing the role of an underdog, an everyday man. The fact that he can confidently do so, so many years into his career, without any pretensions, is admirable. The early romantic scenes and her anxiety over how the villagers treat her snooker table are hilarious. When he finds some soul toward the end, he encourages others to follow him. Kavya Kalyan Ram, Muralidhar Gaur (Father (DJ Talo), Sudhakar Reddy, Richa Ravi, Roopa and Jayaram fit their parts well. Several supporting actors who enact the parts of the villagers lend authenticity to the film.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a connected, indie-style Telugu film that explores the subcultures of the Telugu states. Caring for Kancharapalum or a Millesham what Balagam is a welcome addition to the list.