- Critic's Rating - 7.5/107.5/10
Padma Shri Chinthakindi Mallesam is an entrepreneur from a village in Telangana. He was born into a family of weavers. Mallesam’s mother yarns designs on sarees with her hand, which eventually wears off her arm and is adviced to stop doing it any further, by the doctor, to keep her arm functioning. If her hand does not do the strenuous job, it would also not be able to feed her family, such is the desparation of people depending on it as their primary profession. A gifted child, empathizes with his mother’s plight and is determined to produce a machine that will assuage his mother’s pain. This extremely observant child, with hardly any knowledge of the English language or the Engineering technicalities, invents a machine that not only brought respite to his mother but to millions across the country.
Mallesam (The Film) is an honest telling of this incredible story of the invention of the Asu machine, Mallesam. A depleted middle-aged man promises to never to a shopkeeper of never coming back with a request of Credit on his purchase. He then picks up 4 soft drink bottles and heads home, the moment the two daughters come running to him and take the bottles out of his hand, you know what is about to follow and it does. The film starts with death, suicide rather. It is rare for a film to make you cry in the prologue of the film, Mallesam does that because you know, as you are watching this movie in a multiplex, enjoying your Coke, a family is actually drinking that Mazaa. The reality of the scene hits you hard. After shaking you up with an emotional bang, the film now, holds your hand gently and takes you on a fascinating cultural journey.
The following scenes are a young Mallesam’s mother giving him life lessons, we understand that these life lessons are the foundations to what he would eventually achieve in the coming years. He employs all these unassuming lessons in the process of making this complex machine. This parallel can be drawn to the making of this film. The writers and the director have a bigger picture in mind, a script that needs to accommodate for many conflicts and resolutions but they commit to each scene and moment in the screenplay as if the film depended on it. Knitting these meticulously crafted moments together, they create a near perfect film that stands as one of the Best Biopics to come out of India.
A mother singing a lullaby to her baby. A School teacher gifting a dictionary to a young boy who cannot afford school. A fellow patient at a Hospital recognising Mallesam’s talent. These are a few moments in the film which define both the form and content of the film. A scene where a mother sings a lullaby to her child bears no significance in the larger sense of the story but that is the form, the director goes for; this is the world he is trying to bring on screen. Mallesam ( The Film ) brings about a cultural monsoon like feeling. The smell of the mud engulfs you wholly. The Telangana lingo is never overdone. The costumes and the vehicles are era-appropriate. Raj Rachakonda ( Director ) directs the film with great clarity. When he puts us in the middle of a Muslim ritual, with Telangana folk bursting out of the mics, one feels the flavour of the place and the cultural. He makes sure everything in the frame and in the writing does not come across as being documented. He imbues heart into every interaction between the characters. Especially the endearing banter between Mallesam and his wife contributes to a lot of memorable moments.
Priyadarshe plays Mallesam with great honesty. He loses himself in this character and just lives along. The determination in his eyes and the vulnerability in his body language is palpable. He owns the character and is completely oblivious to the camera. His resolve is infectious, as he yearns to find some sort of support from the people around, as an audience you root for him, pray for him to forge ahead in his endeavour, such is the magic of a great performance. Priyadarshe, without ever asking for it, gets complete support from the audience. His victory, becomes your victory. His conflict becomes your conflict and when he finds a way out, you smile in hope of things finally falling in place. Jhansi plays Mallesam’s mother and it is her who holds your hand and takes you into the world of this film. As she shares life lessons with his young son, you sit their nodding at her invaluable words. Ananya Nagalla plays Mallesam’s wife, Padma. Padma is Supportive but also sarcastic in the most innocuous way. She never misses out on a chance to pull his leg but she also becomes his crutch in difficult times.
The most rewarding takeaway from this inspiring Biopic is that one needs to be awake to life around them. Mallesam, through his endeavour finds ideas and resolutions in the most mundane situations, things that we overlook or do not look at all. But this film must not be Overlooked. It deserves to be watched and applauded both for its Social and Cinematic achievement.