C/O Kancharapalem is set in Kancharapalem, a locality near Vizag, in Andhra Pradesh. This is an anthology drama that unfolds over 4 stories of characters of four stages of life, the impressionable Childhood, a newly realized fascinating youth, the emotional maturity of the 30s and finally, the midlife crises of middle age. Unlike other anthologies where the main character’s struggle and graph are relatively more essential than the other characters, this film has a lot more to say than just about its protagonists. Also, the incredibly smart use of the anthology format is commendable as it does not count as a mere cinematic gimmick but contributes immensely to the perspective of the refreshingly hopeful voice of the Writer-director, Maha.
The existence of this excellent film is a seminal moment in Telugu cinema
The makers treat it with as much realism as possible, casting non-actors in pivotal roles with the kind of depth that established actors find hard to pull off and boy do they pull it off! The film starts with, probably, the most beautiful shots of a small-town. The First few shots of the morning fog are as if, the camera is alluring you into this world by casting a spell on you with the engulfing fog. Only when the cinematographer himself is consumed by this magic, can he show it to us. It is as if, he set-up the camera in the lives of the people of Kancharapalem and is watching the stories unfold and we, the audience, are just his vision. This film has compelled me to think how beautiful it would be to be the vision of a cinematographer. For a film that is labelled as a ” Small ” film, it is a technical marvel. The sound design and the soundtrack are equally heartwarming as the pouring of hot tea from one glass to another, on a chilly winter morning, sounds as soothing as Sweekar’s music.
Writer-Director, Maha, weaves the stories around the most pressing and ludicrous societal diktats like, Religious fundamentalism, the concept of God, the institution of marriage. A film dealing with the aforementioned aspects of our societies is expected to turn out preachy but it takes a filmmaker with sublime storytelling skills and a perspective that can remain unbiased to handle a film with such maturity. Maha’s film is a hopeful take on the society. This is one of those rare films for which I remained seated until the last title card came on screen and it ends with a shot from the climax of the film where the entire village comes to support a man whom they have ridiculed over the years. This is a beautiful analogy which could mean, the gathering of all the villagers is the society we live in and the protagonist whom they have come to support is a man with freewill and common sense who has, constantly, been a victim of the unreasonable prejudices of the rotting society, which has finally come together to support this man, who has taken a decision against the societal norms. This is just a wild theory that occurred to me but when you watch a film so brilliant, you might as well believe that the director was actually meaning to convey that analogy.
The writing of Care of Kancharapalem is superlative. The screenplay does not hit the ground running but once it does, it takes your breath away with deeply affecting moments. C/O Kancharapalem might seem like a slice of life film but it is the director’s humility to package it as one and not take his storytelling too seriously. However, the film is extremely demanding of the audience, as it expects social and emotional maturity. Very few films make the audience feel like the real winners, by allowing them to reflect upon the ideas the film delves in, as opposed to Spoon-feeding them.
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C/o Kancharapalem smiles at the audience like a baby smiles at her mother. I could not find anything purer to compare the experience to. Let this baby grow up to be the kind of cinema that our industry represents. If there is a tinge of dissatisfaction in me, it is because of the ‘ Happy Ending ‘ and the slightly awkward comical tone it goes into, in the last act. But if it was just the director being hopeful of our society ending up with some sense, then it is most welcome. Go watch this film and let it sweep you off your feet!