It is still a Wednesday and I have finally reached the last of the leftovers from the weekend. With that I finished watching the new Telugu film Balagam which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. An industry known for mass cinema, every now and then comes up with films that are rooted to reality and culture. And I personally feel that that is when the Telugu film industry scores big. The moment the industry is able to truly represent the culture, keeping aside the Box Office and the mass elements, is when its films have truly resonated with me.
It was a couple of weeks back that I had watched a Telugu film Writer Padmanabhan which was a simple tale but had its heart in the right place. And I have often longed for such stories from the Telugu film industry that often come as a breath of fresh air. As far as Balagam was concerned, I did get a similar vibe particularly because of its setting in a village which is a rarity in Telugu films these days. So then does Balagam manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Balagam follows the story of a young man who plans to get engaged to receive a dowry which he would utilize to pay off his debts. This until, there is a death in the family to stall his proceedings. The story here is a solid drama veiled as a comedy. And the reason for the same is that while the drama does have streaks of dark comedy instilled in it, at its heart it is quite an emotionally draining drama that does tug the strings of your heart. Now, we have previously seen films centered around deaths too. Films like Ee. Ma. Yau. Or Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi have all had a deep impacted on the viewers with its neatly written drama and some interesting character dynamics that drive the story forward. And Balagam is no different. The screenplay standing at just above 2 hours does make for a compelling watch in a drama which is emotionally engrossing.
The drama does open with the introduction of one of the characters who is seen to be jovial and quite excited for his grandson’s engagement. And straight up, I did like how there was effort invested in the world building which was absolutely mandatory here. The leisurely paced drama does allow you time to soak in the setting and also get acquainted with the multiple characters which are introduced soon after. The character traits are unique and that does promise for an interesting character dynamics. Once the drama is set, you are introduced to the conflict with a tinge of comedy. The streaks of comedy will momentarily put a smile on your face during the funeral scenes.
The proceedings are engrossing and engaging and make for a thoroughly compelling watch. Funerals are generally a place of social gathering wherein barring the close family and a handful of others, the majority of the crowd does come to socialize besides paying their last respects. The general consensus is such that some people may not have been in touch with the individual, yet do step in to participate in the final journey of the individual. And that was represented quite well here. Also, I was keenly observing the proceedings given that I am a huge fan of culture. And here, the culture of rural Telangana was so well represented, so much so that I could draw parallels with certain parts of it. The drama was quite enriching and enlightening in the representation of the culture.
There is a gradual switch of genres as the drama begins to focus on a family tiff which adds a fresh angle to the character dynamics. The one upmanship to ego tussles was nicely represented in the drama. And that is when the drama begins to get a little emotional in its nature besides being slightly melodramatic(in a positive way). The events leading up to the final act are interesting followed by an extremely emotional final act that will force you to shed a tear. It almost does engulf you with a bunch of emotions that you will tend to overlook one of the subplots not getting a closure which really should have been addressed as well. But overall, the screenplay here is brilliantly penned with its heart in the right place.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The drama is almost entirely conversational in its template and the lines make for a solid impact. More importantly, the drama was grounded and culturally rich wherein the dialogues also play an important part. The music is outstanding and almost makes your heart weep with a bunch of emotions driving it. The BGM is powerful and blends perfectly with the drama. The cinematography is top class and does compensate for the lack of good VFX. Director Venu Yeldandi does a phenomenal job in handling this delicate subject with utmost sensitivity. It was easy to go overboard here but he always does keep the drama grounded. The direction deserves distinction marks here.
The performances are outstanding here. Kota Jayaram as Ailayya is top notch and does a fabulous job. Muralidhar Ireni as Narayana is first rate as well. Roopalakshmi as Laxmi has her moments to shine as does Arusam Madhusudhan as Mogili. Kavya Kalyanram as Sandhya looks pretty and has a charming presence onscreen. She does a pretty good job as well. Priyadarshi Pulikonda as Saiyulu is excellent with a lovely little character arc. And he puts his best foot forward here, taking the viewers on an emotional roller coaster filled with different emotions.
Balagam is a culturally rooted drama with death as a backdrop that makes for a brilliant watch. Available on Amazon Prime and Highly Recommended!