‘Bubblegum’ movie review: An imperfect but interesting film about young love and aspirations

Director Ravikanth Perepu’s ‘Bubblegum’ explores urban love beyond candyfloss mores, aided by Sricharan Pakala’s giddy soundtrack and Roshan Kanakala and Maanasa Chaudhary’s performances

December 29, 2023 03:11 pm | Updated December 31, 2023 06:46 pm IST

Roshan Kanakala and Maanasa Chaudhary in director Ravikanth Perepu’s Telugu film ‘Bubblegum’

Roshan Kanakala and Maanasa Chaudhary in director Ravikanth Perepu’s Telugu film ‘Bubblegum’

The Telugu film Bubblegum opens with its male protagonist riding his bike on a flyover in the newer part of Hyderabad; he is shirtless and his body language reflects pain and rage. Yet another portrayal of masculine aggression and a romance narrated with a male gaze? Writer and director Ravikanth Perepu refrains from walking that easy path. Instead, he narrates a story of young urban love that tries to cut across class differences, aspirations and insecurities and questions if love alone is enough to bridge the gap. The title is not an indication of candyfloss romance. It stands for how romance, sweet at first, can get sticky like a bubblegum, tough to get rid off even if you want to.

The beauty of Hyderabad lies in the many worlds it encompasses — the heritage-steeped Old City in contrast to the upscale new portions of the city with its MNCs, gated communities and nightclubs. Ravikanth’s protagonists hail from these polar opposite corners of the city. 

There is a lived-in warmth with which Sai Aditya aka Adi (debutant Roshan Kanakala)’s lower middleclass setting in the Old City area is portrayed. His father Jayram Eeshwar (Chaitu Jonnalagadda) has a chicken stall and mother (Bindu Chandramouli) is a homemaker. Growing up in a Dakhni-speaking household, Adi is a DJ who dreams of performing at Tomorrowland. When Adi’s path crosses that of Jhanvi (Maanasa Chaudhary) whose conversations with friends are about the crepes she had at Prague and the watery beer at Germany’s Oktoberfest, both their worlds turn upside down.

Bubblegum (Telugu)
Cast: Roshan Kanakala, Maanasa Chaudhary
Direction: Ravikanth Perepu
Music: Sricharan Pakala
Storyline: When an aspiring DJ from a lower middle class family falls in love with an affluent young woman, career aspirations, insecurities and egos come into play. Is love enough to bridge the gap?

While Adi’s aspirations, humiliation and the proverbial rising from the ashes is the backbone of the story, appreciably Bubblegum does not villainise the female protagonist. The narrative reflects both their insecurities and outlook towards life. It understands that both of them are 22, at the brink of exploring a whole new world. 

The conversations Adi has with his friends from his neighbourhood shows they are aware of their limitations and that they may not get too lucky in love. Jhanvi’s friend, in contrast, asks her if she is on the lookout for another ‘boy toy’ when she takes a liking to Adi. Their food choices also delineate their privilege. While he devours mutton and chicken biryani, she is vegan! Sricharan Pakala uses an operatic score when the couple devours vegan risotto.

The initial meetings and romance are depicted with a burst of colours in every frame, as though extrapolating the psychedelic lights at the nightclubs. Suresh Ragutu’s visual palette is exuberant for most part of the film, in tune with young romance. Sricharan’s background score is joyous, almost giddy, treating the romance like a musical. There is also a generous dash of humour, particularly through the character of Jayram Eshwar. Chaitu Jonnalagadda is a welcome addition to on-screen fathers in Telugu cinema and the fun lines between him and Adi keep the drama in a cheery zone. Beneath that humour is also a gentle, well meaning  father-son relationship. 

When we get to know more of Adi and Jhanvi’s worlds, and what has shaped their approach to life, we know the signs of possible discord. Privilege, for Jahnvi, comes not only from her financial situation but also from her parents’ (Harshavardhan and Anu Hasan) outlook towards partnership and marriage. Ravikanth shows how both the sets of parents, divided by their financial equations, are very much benevolent towards their children’s choices.

Hence, the eventual friction between Adi and Jhanvi arises primarily from their own misgivings. Bubblegum does not hold back from exploring the tricky zones in a relationship.

The film is an interesting exploration of young urban romance with all its fallacies. We see him trying to fit into her world and later, the tables are turned. The drama towards the later portions is overdrawn and some of the conflicts seem repetitive, though they serve to address the question of whether love alone is enough. The character transformations towards the end also feel rushed. However, several smaller segments add vibrancy to the narrative. Take for instance how Adi’s deft moves at the DJ console are contrasted by his nifty movements on the butcher’s table, chopping meat.

Apart from the writing and the music, the performances work in the film’s favour. Roshan Kanakala is a cocktail of confidence and vulnerability in his debut outing. He has a boy next door demeanour and holds promise. Maanasa is convincing in her portrayal of privilege but also brings in the required sensitivity in the later portions. Harshavardhan, Anu Hasan, Bindu Chandramouli, and some of the actors in the parts of friends also fit the bill.

Bubblegum is far from perfect, but it has sparks of individuality that makes it stand out from the clutter.

Bubblegum is currently running in theatres

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