Middle Class Melodies movie review: Anand Devarakonda fits the bill in a tale that's all heft and heart
Middle Class Melodies is a heartwarming drama, and it treats its world and characters with a great amount of verve and emotional heft, while never losing its touch with humour.
In Middle Class Melodies, Raghava (Anand Deverakonda) lives with his parents in Kolakaluru, a village near Guntur. His family runs a small hotel, and Raghava takes pride in his ability to make Bombay chutney, which, he believes is better than everything else on the menu. But their income is meagre because the customers are more interested in reading newspapers and gossip, rather than the food he serves.
Raghava believes that he stands a better chance to make it big in Guntur, which is about 20 km away from his village. That is the distance between his dreams and reality; his aspirations and lack of a sustainable income; his success and failure. He straddles between two worlds, one ruled by his hot-headed and foul-mouthed father, and the other where he can write his own destiny. He is neither here nor there. Maybe that is what makes his life so quintessentially 'middle-class.'
Directed by Vinod Anantoju, the story, written by Janardhan Pasumarthi, traces the journey of Raghava as he tries to prove to his father that he can be successful on his own terms. His life in the village is tedious, but more than that, his father Kondala Rao's (Goparaju Ramana) relentless taunts make Raghava feel miserable. Kondala’s temper is nearly unbearable, and for seemingly no reason at all, sometimes. But then, perhaps, he understands that for a middle class family like theirs, even dreaming big is an expensive affair. And if there is one thing that none of them can handle, it is failure. Is his anger a defence mechanism to protect his son from failing? Perhaps, yes. The relationship between Kondala Rao and Raghava is at the heart of Middle Class Melodies, and it gives the whole drama a distinct flavour.
Quite rarely have we come across characters like Kondala in Telugu cinema in recent years. Goparaju Ramana relishes the character so much, and makes it so memorable that it is hard to look past him every time he appears on screen. Telugu cinema is filled with doting fathers, who dole out sugar-coated wisdom, and men who are bogged down by all sorts of pressures and shattered dreams. Kondala Rao is nothing short of a revelation. Goparaju Ramana thrives and how! His conversations with his wife Lakshmi (Surabhi Prabhavathi) are wonderfully written, and along with Raghava, the trio set the tone for this beautifully narrated drama.
In Raghava, Middle Class Melodies finds its suitable boy, so to speak. He has plenty of dreams but very little money, a lot of love for his crush but not enough courage to face her, and a zeal to succeed but scared that he will fail. Deverakonda fits the role quite well, and shines in the more emotional moments of the film, especially when he is frustrated with his own life. Then, there is Sandhya (Varsha Bollamma), Raghava’s love interest, who is stuck between her father and Raghava. Her character is beautifully written, and both Vinod Anantoju and Janardhan Pasumarthi ensure that Sandhya does not end up as a character without a voice of her own. Varsha Bollamma shines in this role, which grows from being coy to feisty by the end of the film.
The film also makes plenty of space for its supporting cast, and that is perhaps one of its biggest achievements.
Chaitanya Garikipati, who plays Gopal, makes a great impression, and gets a wonderfully written subplot of his own, where he grapples with his obsession with horoscopes. Then there is Divya Sripada, who plays Gautami, whose love story with Gopal is treated with a lot of dignity and respect.
Middle Class Melodies both celebrates and critiques the family structure, where one’s opinion is negotiable depending on the financial circumstances of the family. It paves way for plenty of hilarious situations, with Kondala losing his cool for all the right reasons. Sweekar Agasthi’s music and Vikram’s background are woven into the narrative quite well, and Sunny Kurrapati’s cinematography brings alive the sights and sounds of Guntur.
For all the good work that Middle Class Melodies achieves through the course of its narrative, it also tries to do too much, at times. As a result, the pacing of the story is uneven, and it feels at least 15 to 20 minutes longer than what it could have been. One of the reasons is because it places its environment at the centre of the storytelling rather than the protagonist’s journey. For a while, it is hard to figure out if it is about Raghava, who wants to make it big, or about his uneasy relationship with his father. And then, the narrative tries to dip its feet into the myriad of other characters and their issues in the village. Thankfully, all these aspects do not derail the narrative, and it hits the right chords when it matters the most.
Films like these are a testimony to the new wave of Telugu cinema that is eager to explore lives and aspirations of people beyond the urban centres. Director Vinod Anantoju does a remarkable job in exploring the setting, and brings in an authentic vibe and flavour of a place like Guntur. And he is a talent to watch out for.
Middle Class Melodies is a heartwarming drama, and it treats its world and characters with a great amount of verve and emotional heft, while never losing its touch with humour. Go ahead and taste this Bombay Chutney. And pay your respects to Telugu cinema’s new entrant to the pantheon of remarkable dads: Kondala Rao. I can still hear Goparaju Ramana’s distinct voice long after watching the film.
Middle Class Melodies is streaming on Amazon Prime Video India.
Rating: 3.25 stars
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