I was watching an interview with the main cast members of this movie. Most of them are regular citizens of Kancharapalem, a locality in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, with no prior acing experience.
One of the cast members claimed that during the entire duration of the shoot, he never knew what was going through the director’s mind because 60% of the time, the director would apparently say “OK” after the first take. And he being a non-actor, a non-professional actor to be specific, always thought he pretty much sucked in that scene.
That gut instinct of Venkatesh Maha is what I loved in this movie – C/o Kancharapalem. His gut instinct to bring out the rawness of these everyday characters, not only highlighted the authenticity in them, but also took us to Kancharapalem itself.
This movie was featured in many “One of the best films to watch in 2018” lists put together by renowned film critics in India. But thankfully, I had not read a single review until I chanced upon the movie on Netflix recently.
Four love stories involving four couples of different age groups. That’s the backdrop. But you don’t realize that because of how these characters are brought about. You don’t realize till later in the movie how each couple is essentially exploring the depths of this emotion called “Love”.
Is that what makes Sundaram, a teenage boy run out of school to get a lyrics booklet (remember those days when you could buy lyrics booklet for 10p or 20p??) for Sunitha, his classmate, who enjoys singing but is too shy to sing in front of her school friends because she doesn’t know the lyrics of her favorite song?
Is that what makes Bhargavi, a rather bold and a straightforward college going brahmin girl, follow Joseph to a sermon in the middle of a street so that she could spend a Sunday with him, although it was the same Joseph, an odd job hitman, who angered her once because she caught him beating up a man on the street?
Is that what makes Gaddam, a liquor store employee, thrust a pack of condoms into the hands of Saleema, his sex-worker girlfriend, after she reveals to him that her mother died of AIDS?
Is that what makes Raju, a 49 year old unmarried man, carry a bottle of sugar water during a difficult hilly trek to a temple, for Radha, his diabetic co-worker and boss, a single mother from Odisha?
Maha keeps cutting between these four stories.
With Sundaram and Sunitha, you understand the age, how quickly mind flutters in that age, and what the real depth of love is during teem years. And on the other end of the age spectrum, you have Raju and Radha, two people who had gone through a lot in their lives. Falling in love is not merely the ability to impress the other person in their case, but it’s a gradual process and it starts with understanding each other by being kind to each other.
And somewhere in between, there is a stunning revolutionary relationship between Gaddam and Saleema. Gaddam proposes to Saleema after finding out that she is a sex-worker. He says he is not bothered. But she doesn’t just fall at his feet or cry out loud because of his open heartedness. Instead she asks him to take her to his friends and profess his love for her in front of them, some of whom had slept with her in the past. This way, she says, her past will never be brought up in future as a relationship killer. This is such a swipe at so many societal taboos at the same time.
Meanwhile it is also in the same Kancharapalem where you get to see some homophobia in the form of how the residents conclude that Raju must be gay for remaining single at the age of 49 and how that is a no-no for a gay like him to live amongst them.
Every non-actor, played his or her character with a certain awkward rawness that it all came across in such an endearing way to me. There were occasions when some of these characters render their lines overlapping with the other person’s lines, just like what happens in real life, instead of the perfectly synchronized dialogue edits we see in most movies.
And then the twist.
I won’t reveal it here. But full credits to Maha’s writing. If the director meticulously took pains to shoot the whole movie as a serious of undramatic and low key moments, then he was aided ably by the writer who made sure that there was enough in each of those undramatic and low key moments.
Love does transcend and amaze all notions of time.
And these love stories in Kancharapalem are proof of that.