Films that depict the life of a common man are rare to come by in Telugu cinema. At a time when our filmmakers and story writers are diving into the lives of political stalwarts, film actors and sports personalities, debutant director Raj Rachakonda, with his eponymous biopic, Mallesham, came forward to tell the little-known story of a high-school dropout, with a theme where love and science co-exist.
Mallesham is about the great lengths a doting son will go to ease off the shoulder impingement pain of her mother and women like her in his village.
The film tells the story of Mallesham, a class VI drop out in a small hamlet in Telangana, who takes up the onerous task to create an Asu machine to process yarn mechanically when he learns about the sufferings of his mother, Lakshmi (Jhansi) who moves her arms continuously to wind yarn around two sets of pegs on either end of a four-foot wooden structure before the Ikat sari is woven.
Played by Priyadarshi Pullikonda, Mallesham is based on Padma Shri awardee Chintakindi Mallesham, the innovator of the Rs 26,000 Asu machine from Pochampally, who is also credited for revolutionising the productivity of handloom sector and bringing in nation-wide recognition to the weavers from his place.
Telugu cinema is often known to tell a dramatic story overly dramatic.
As a school-goer, Mallesham tells his mother that he will give a better quality of life to her. She just laughs off and doesn’t pay heed to him.
I think it’s not just enough that Mallesham is determined to make his own version of Asu machine, a thought engulfed due to his love for his mother and that particular scene also happens amidst a pathos background.
The writing by Raj and Peddinti Ashok Kumar takes off on a funny note but quickly becomes emotive owing to the plight of Mallesham.
He spends his hours losing sleep, thinking about the components required and how all these be assembled to make an affordable Asu machine.
However, his obsession makes him an object of ridicule by his own family and his villagers. He finds his wife, Padma (Ananya Nagalla) by his side and she supports him in his endeavour by giving her jewellery to accomplish his dream.
As the story unfolds through Mallesham’s point of view, it’s hero is no longer a common man, who ambitiously tries to solve a personal problem and ends up as a saviour to his people/community.
Director Raj Rachakonda struggles in the second-hour to strike a balance with his inconsistent story-telling as it’s not easy to entertain, raise awareness and incentivize people about his belief, all at one go.
At one point, Mallesham who has no technical knowledge or an engineering degree to his name seeks the help of a professor at a university for a problem.
And a few scenes later, we still see him struggling to find a solution to it all over again. He does several odd jobs to make ends meet and ends up as an electrician before his owner scoffs at the deaths of weavers.
Mallesham fights self-doubts faces obstacles in his journey and these sequences overlap well signifying that things don’t happen too easily for the protagonist. The director succeeds here to bring whatever authenticity the biopic deserves to claim.
The film has an inspirational story that needs to be told and what’s more saddening is it was released at a time when about 50,000 weavers from the region are still demanding justice for their community.
Of course, it’s not our business to tell what the filmmakers put into a story and what they chose to leave out, but what matters to us is whether the director stays faithful to the blueprint of the original story.
And yes, Raj deserves applause for churning out a film which has its heart in the right place.
Priyadarshi’s complete ownership of the role is what elevates this film a few notches higher.
His portrayal of a high-school goer, who is obsessed with electronic devices to a dejected soul – sets him apart from many poker-faced actors. He wears a sari during the Peerla Panduga and that shows his faith in the story, his enthusiasm to push boundaries and do what all required for his character.
Newcomer Ananya Nagalla shows the ease and lights up the screen with her honesty. Jhansi and Ananda Chakrapani portrayed their part beautifully, making their characters relatable to the section, who still struggle for their livelihood.
The film has been shot across Pochampally in a realistic and on-location style that beautifully captures the sights and sounds of the village in its everyday routine. The usage of sync sound and Mark K Robin’s upbeat music have set the quality bar high.
The film also discusses the suicides of weavers and their migration from the tradition due to lack of sustainable job. Mallesham makes for an interesting film that needs to be watched for its spectacular performances and emotional connect.
Director: Raj Rachakonda
Cast: Priyadarshi Pullikonda, Ananya Nagalla, Jhansi
Rating: 3/5 stars