How does one define honour? Does it lie in adhering to caste norms, or does it lie in creating a safe environment and instilling confidence in a child to speak up when things go awry? Director Sekhar Kammula uses the platform of a mainstream entertainer to make family audiences introspect.
Love Story has all the trappings of a Kammula film. The music (debut composer Pawan Ch) can sweep us off our feet, the strong-willed leading lady dances like a dream and the hero is a thorough gentleman. Romance blossoms on the terraces of middle-class homes in Padmarao Nagar, Secunderabad. As the film unfolds in modest settings, without larger-than-life frills, it shows how absorbing a film can be when there’s a good script.
In Armoor, Telangana, Revanth (Naga Chaitanya) grows up listening to his mother (Easwari Rao) reiterate the importance of earning and living with dignity. She tells him that it’s better to be in a position where you can give financial assistance than having to receive it. Revanth’s is a success story; he runs a small Zumba centre in the big city. There are challenges, but he is in a position where he can employ someone.
- Cast: Naga Chaitanya, Sai Pallavi, Easwari Rao, Rajeev Kanakala
- Direction: Sekhar Kammula
- Music: Pawan Ch
Sekhar contrasts this with Mounica (Sai Pallavi), an upper-caste girl who arrives in the city with dreams in her eyes. Her family owns acres of land, but she has to battle for her rights — financial and otherwise. She realises that her low score in engineering won’t get her a fat paycheck. Long after Happy Days (2007), in which Kammula focussed on engineering campuses, he shows us the other side — of an engineer embracing her innate flair for dance to get ahead in life, rather than pushing keys on a computer from dawn to dusk. Mounica finds her wings to fly but lives in constant fear of her family disapproving of her work. She terms it ‘ narakam’ (hell) and you can empathise with her plight.
In the city, there are no ‘us’ and ‘them’ caste differences, at least on a surface level. Revanth and Mouncia can take Zumba and dance classes together and earn a living. However, the cracks in society are laid bare through the story of another couple.
Back in Armoor, there are telling scenes where Revanth and his mother continue to be looked down upon by an upper-caste household. His work is mocked and someone doesn’t think twice before offering him second-hand shirts.
Mounica and Revanth’s respective baggage from the past run as an undercurrent to the romance. He is tired of caste disparities. She too is battling something complex and has to find the courage to voice it. She finds solace in the city since she can breathe free, and doesn’t have to look over her shoulders for safety. In a cleverly written scene, she tells Revanth that she will dance on the condition that he always maintains two feet distance. We know that she isn’t referring to caste; something else has left her scarred.
It’s a film where everything comes together in synergy. Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi internalise their parts so well that they are in sync with the characters they portray. Chaitanya is natural and emotes with all sincerity, triumphing in a career-defining role. Sai Pallavi is excellent, expressing the minute fears of Mounica. Props to Easwari Rao and the fun cameo by Gangavva. Rajeev Kanakala acts like an embodiment of arrogance and evil so effectively, that I ended up hating him thoroughly.
A handful of scenes unfold in the vicinity of Purana Pul (computer graphics?), a reminder of a historical love story Hyderabad is associated with. Revanth and Mounica too have to cross the bridge amid storms, metaphorically speaking, to be able to start life afresh.
Love Story could have been yet another Sairaat , but Sekhar expertly steers it in a different direction in the last act. Romance is one of the most commonly explored genres in commercial cinema and after a point, one tends to view it with cynicism. But this one kept me invested; I watched with bated breath, hoping that Revanth and Mounica cross the hurdles in their path.