A nagging situation someone faces might seem trivial to others. The one who faces the triggering situation might put up with something until it reaches a breaking point and give in to rage. Director Prabhala Tilak, who has co-written the Telugu anthology Anger Tales (streaming on Disney+ Hotstar) with Karthikeya Karedla, focuses on how people respond to varied irritants.
A toiling homemaker who is unable to take an afternoon nap, a young woman who is not allowed to eat eggs in her vegetarian household, an avid fan of a star who is pushed to his limits while arranging a special fans’ show, and a bald man who grapples with failure on all fronts are the central characters in this anthology.
The character of Ranga (Venkatesh Maha) would be relatable to die-hard fans of A-list stars of Telugu cinema. In the story titled ‘Benefit Show’, we see Ranga, the president of a fans association of a star, trying to organise a special screening of his idol’s new movie. Tilak narrates this story like an insider who has watched people like Ranga up close. Fan clubs view a ‘benefit show’ as a marker of power and pride. Ticket prices are hiked up and tempers rage high when there is a delay. Maha is effective in his portrayal of Ranga’s pride, rage and desperation. This is by far director Venkatesh Maha’s best as an actor. Suhas is impressive in his brief part as a rabble-rouser. ‘Benefit Show’ is engaging for a large part but is undone by its ending.
Cast: Venkatesh Maha, Bindu Madhavi, Phani Acharya, Madonna Sebastian and Tharun Bhascker
Direction: Prabhala Tilak
Music: Smaran Sai
The story ‘Food Festival’ shifts our attention to an apartment complex that seems to uphold vegetarianism as its predominant identity. What happens when a holier-than-thou attitude of the family and the neighbourhood prevents a woman from boiling eggs at home? Madonna Sebastian is cast as Priya Reddy, a young married woman who is advised by her doctor to have eggs. Though the story does not give a clear picture of her health condition and why eggs can be the only solution, one can empathise with Priya wanting freedom to make her food choices. The husband (Tharun Bhascker as Rajeev) and his mother are portrayed as uni-dimensional characters and could have been fleshed out better. Madonna plays the irked young woman who tries to cope with her situation with ease and Tharun hits the right notes as the husband who thinks being vegetarian makes him superior.
‘An Afternoon Nap’ focuses on a homemaker in a lower middle-class household whose days begin with the pressure cooker and ends with worrying about leaking roofs. Radha (Bindu Madhavi) tries her best to do everything that her household and her husband (Ravindra Vijay) demand of her. Situations that seem trivial at first spiral out of control. The mundane and repetitive everyday situations make us empathise with the homemaker and her plight. Bindu Madhavi and Ravindra Vijay stand out with their performances. The overtly dramatic ending takes the sheen off of an otherwise realistic portrayal of situations.
‘Helmet head’ might faintly bring back memories of the Hindi film Bala in which the protagonist grapples with confidence issues thanks to his bald pate. Phani Acharya is cast as Giridhar whose personal and professional life looks bleak. The story explores issues related to male pattern baldness and Giridhar’s guilt at how he finds a way out of it. The discourse around whether helmets can cause baldness might raise concerns about road safety issues. Phani Acharya turns in a good performance but the story did not make me root for his character.
On the upside, Anger Tales manages to place every story and character in milieus that look authentic and benefit from actors who can convey the emotional upheavals rather well. Production designer Ashok Narra and cinematographers Amardeep, Vinod K Bangari, Venkat R Shakhamuri and AJ Aaron build realistic worlds for the four stories, with the help of sound designers Sai Maneendhar Reddy and Nagarjuna Thallapalli, and music composer Smaran Sai. Had the writing been better, Anger Tales would have been an interesting addition to the Telugu digital space.
(Anger Tales streams on Disney+ Hotstar)