How do you know you’re being loved? Does one have to be pampered with soft toys, trinkets, endless trips to cafés to wolf down ice creams, milkshakes and coffees and be told time and again how deeply you’re being loved? Uyyala Jampala that has as its protagonist a child-woman Uma Devi (Avika Gor), nudges the adolescent age group to look beyond frivolities. This coming-of-age story is set in a contemporary village. As Suri (Raj Tarun) states in the beginning, villages today have all the frills of fast food, colas and denims but people still hold on to their humble moorings and value human relationships above all else.

Uma and Suri are cousins who’ve grown up together even though their families have a strained relationship. He is a cry baby and she spreads laughter. He taunts her, discovers it’s fun to make her cry and does that all through childhood. We warm up to the two, chuckling at the childhood love-hate relationship. There are plenty of hints that this will be a simple story with a linear narrative, not throwing too many surprises our way. Nothing changes as Uma and Suri grow up; they constantly get on each other’s nerves but somewhere, there is a sense of belonging and possessiveness and they don’t know it’s love.

A thin line divides a small, beautiful film from a boring one. First time director Virinchi Varma walks this line well, giving his characters traits we can relate to. A few scenes linger long after we walk out of the hall — Uma at first disinterested and later giving in to gluttony and polishing off rice and chicken cooked by Suri’s mother; Suri gradually learning not to spoil Uma’s elaborate rangoli; Uma and Sunita (Punarnavi) taking turns to walk in front of Suri trying to catch his attention and so on.

Humour pervades through the film, even in the most crucial scenes. Uma’s anger when she learns of the trick behind the love letter written in blood is a riot. Virinchi Varma’s dialogues are short, crisp and he manages to get good performances from his lead actors and supporting cast. Avika of the Balika Vadhu television soap is a welcome addition to Telugu cinema, bringing in the naivety required for her role. She tends to go overboard at times, but is mostly heart-warming. The surprise is Raj Tarun. He doesn’t have the physique of a typical hero, befits the role of an awkward rustic guy and by the end of the film, makes us root for him. Punarnavi as Uma’s friend and Anita Chowdhary as Suri’s mom also leave a mark.

Uyyala Jampala is an example of what happens when a small film is backed by good producers. The director is able to narrate his story well and get capable actors and technicians on board. Vishwa’s cinematography, M.R. Sunny’s music and aesthetic costumes in the form of native handlooms work to the film’s benefit.

The film moves at a snail’s pace some times, but stay with it and you’re bound to leave with a smile. Uyyala Jampala is a good way to end the year.

Cast: Avika Gor and Raj Tarun

Director: Virinchi Varma

Music: M.R. Sunny

Story line: A coming-of-age rural love story.