Love Story: Sekhar succeeds in making an honest & ambitious story

With much hype surrounding the combination, and of course the filmmaker Sekhar Kammula, Love Story was released yesterday, after a long delay due to the second wave of Covid.

After Happy Days, this is the movie of Sekhar I decided to watch on the big screen. My friend and I planned to meet and watch this together, but it couldn’t happen. With the fear of social media spoiling the movie, I went to the theatre today, watched it and enjoyed it with a house-full audience.

Disclaimer: Sekhar and Chaitanya Pingali wrote the movie. I highly appreciate both of them for bringing out a brilliant film, but I attribute the credit to both in the blog, even if I mention Sekhar only.

Even before the title, the Amigos Creations card has the music of Nuvvena from Anand, and you’re into the vibes of Sekhar’s vintage movies. The film shows NC’s childhood in the village, the discrimination, and the struggle they face, his momentary happiness when Rajeev Kanakala gives a coin appreciating NC.

Cut to the present day where he runs a Zumba centre above a rooftop of a rented house of an elderly couple (Rupa teaching music to children in Anand). NC is Revanth, a pragmatic person ambitious in renting out a larger studio for his Zumba classes while trying to convince his mom to mortgage their agricultural land to get the loan.

Sekhar sets up the world he will deal with and then enters the terrific Sai Pallavi, as Mounica, an under-confident girl who faints when brought under pressure due to her horrible childhood incidents (PTSD).

You initially are into the zone of Anand & Godavari — the self-respect of the two people leading into the ego-clashes, attitude show-offs, and then take slowly into this story of aiming to make their Zumba centre bigger.

Though he doesn’t get into the elephant in the room he’s trying to address in the first half, Sekhar builds the chemistry between the couple in his own Anand et al. way. I appreciate the usage of meta element, the same parallel love story running in the movie (the topper boy who perseveres to work at the Zumba centre for free), that helps the lead pair to handle theirs carefully.

While in the city, Sekhar subtly shows the way people treat Revanth (that drainage fixture) though it is not outrightly shown as Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 (remember the man-hole scene in Police Station), and in the village, he goes straight, and loud.

Sekhar takes his own time building up the love story while parallelly touching the caste and gender discrimination between those scenes until the movie explodes into an intense love story at the end.

Running from them solves the problem? Courtesy: YouTube

Coming to the love scenes, I enjoyed every scene between them, but particularly loved the dance sequence in their new studio on the day of the inauguration and that moment in the night where they express love. Those are magical, to say the least, written and picturised beautifully.

In Revanth’s words, Sai Pallavi dances like a peacock in the rain. I wonder how flexible she is! Her performance from being a strong girl in Fidaa to this vulnerable girl with trauma since childhood is highly appreciated.

The slippers metaphor in all the scenes reflects only a minor aspect of what is being done to underprivileged people. Still, I liked how he brought that in the climax when Teacheramma gives her slippers to Mounica.

While watching the Dubai escape planning scene, I was taken aback for a moment. I wondered if it’s not a sensible way of dealing with this issue, and wait, boy, Sekhar had his plan! He won’t finish the movie without addressing the elephant in the room.

As he mentioned in the interview, it is his honest attempt to deal with caste & gender discrimination and untouchability. He humbly apologies to whoever feels it is not appropriately treated.

I highly admire him for also bringing up the child abuse issue — Mani Ratnam handled it in Dil Se, and recently, in the recent thriller Raat Akeli Hai, they touched upon this issue. Children, after such incidents, may have PTSD, and they won’t open up even with their mothers. It affects their mental health significantly, and it’s upon us to make them feel comfortable talking about those issues.

Sekhar used to deal with the internal conflicts between the pair in earlier films, and this time, he voiced out in louder and honest submission, and he succeeded. He, for sure, knows the pulse of the audience in creating love stories.

Sekhar and the team, during the promotions, prepared the audience about the emotional story that we are about to witness on the screen, and it helped not to expect other things that we usually tend to.

This happens to be the first time Sekhar handles established actors in his films. Earlier, he used to bring in new faces, but this time, as the story requires them, he brought in Devayani, Eeswari Rao, Uttej, and Rajeev Kanakala, and they performed well.

I only had an issue while watching the film — the Dubai scenes could’ve been picturised well. They seem superficial, and I think the VFX didn’t go well here. While I hear people complain about Sekhar rushing towards the climax, I feel it’s fine, as long as he didn’t compromise on anything while making the movie. Sekhar mentioned that they didn’t chop off any scenes, and every scene written on paper is there on the screen. See, we are watching Sekhar’s way of dealing with the subject and shouldn’t expect Vetri Maaran to jump in and finish it.

Courtesy: YouTube

Many thanks to Sekhar Kammula and the team for touching upon major issues in mainstream cinema. I hope this paves the way for other filmmakers to tell honest stories without any hesitation. This film is ambitious for both — the Love Story team and the whole Telugu Cinema. Producers of other films are waiting for the response and footfalls for this film to release theirs.

Now, I’m looking forward to Sekhar’s subsequent movies, the immediate next with Dhanush, and I sincerely wish Sekhar does more films.

Also, on the lighter side, Sai Pallavi’s only advice to her sisters/siblings in movies: “Educate so that you can stand up for yourselves!

Before the release, I didn’t listen to songs, had not seen the trailer, deliberately avoiding everything to see the magic on screen. Instead, I saw the interviews of both Sekhar and Naga Chaitanya with BR on YouTube this week. BR being BR, will make sure the conversation is smooth and avoids unnecessary trivial questions. Check out the interview here.

On a personal note: I can’t recall the last time I stood in a queue and purchased a ticket in my hometown (Gadwal). While in Hyderabad, I used to book tickets online for the past 3-4 years, and with no digital option left in my hometown, I got my paper ticket (only one operating theatre in town now, thanks to COVID). Watching a movie in the cinema hall that I’ve been watching since childhood felt nostalgic.

Sri Srinivasa Theatre, Gadwal

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