'Palasa 1978' movie review: The strong script makes it a compelling watch

Director Karuna Kumar's film is a gritty story of folk artistes picking up guns for survival

March 06, 2020 02:58 pm | Updated 03:30 pm IST

Karuna Kumar who made National award-winning short films earlier, is a native of Palasa in Srikakulam district. He hence had drawn inspiration from an incident he had witnessed years ago and fictionalised it. Palasa is known for its cashew business and power politics. The movie begins showing how people, mostly women are employed in factories and are involved in all stages of cashew business — from cultivation to packaging. Illiteracy is an issue and caste subjugation is rampant. The narrative begins in 1978 and moves to 2018 and shows the evolution and ageing of characters too. We take little time to register as to what is happening but once that done, there is no budging from the seats.

The people in Palasa work hard in the mornings and by dusk they tie anklets and pick up the musical instruments to indulge in music. The prime characters belong to such family of folk artistes but circumstances lead them to give up their art form and take to violence. There are so many twists in the story that we don’t see it coming. What hooks our attention apart from the story is the performances. The entire cast comprise of newcomers barring an actor Thiruveer who worked in George Reddy .

Director Karuna Kumar did a great job of training these newcomers and extracting natural performances from them. They speak in an endearing Srikakulam dialect. Baby Pasala, who became an overnight singing sensation on Internet, gets to sing her first song with SP Balasubramanyam for this movie. Raghu Kunche’s rural and retro music and earthy RR lends value to the story and acts as a catalyst in moving the plot ahead. Raghu plays a villain and sinks into his character well.

It is about two brothers — Ranga Rao (Thiruveer) and Mohan Rao (Rakshit) belong to backward community and are drawn into a web of politics and exploited by another two high caste brothers for their dominance and survival in the village.

Rakshit, Thiruveer, Nakshatra, Raghu Kunche and other characters — small and big — make the story a compelling watch. The camera has captured every emotion brilliantly and it is hard to believe it is the director’s first film. However, redundancy in dialogues towards the end of the film would help fine tune the story. The climax isn’t what you expect and you notice that none of the characters in Palasa are vulnerable, they are all strong. The pace of the film is fast, yet keeps the curiosity intact. This one is a compelling watch.

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