With Love Story Sekhar Kammula manages to push the boundaries when it comes to what commercial cinema has come to mean. You have a mainstream hero, a stellar performer and dancer, a love story peppered with foot-tapping songs. Yet, he manages to find a balance between entertaining the audience and addressing social issues that don’t often find space in the stories we usually see. Love Story is Sekhar Kammula's ode to love. Revanth (Naga Chaitanya) moves to the city from Armoor, Nizamabad to chart his own identity. He has grown up facing caste disparity from a very young age but has been told by his mother (Easwari Rao) that anything is possibly as long as he works hard for it. Mouni (Sai Pallavi) also escapes to Hyderabad to not just assert her independence from a family that doesn’t seem to understand her but also from a few demons from her past. He has his own zumba centre even if he struggles to make ends meet. She wants to land an IT job and is instead encouraged by Revanth to help him with his zumba classes till she finds what she needs. There’s beautiful songs shot in the rain, lots of love, sensitivity, understanding and even some anger. In Love Story Sekhar Kammula seems to say that the biggest lie the ‘big city’ plies is that it offers equal opportunity to everyone irrespective of their caste or gender. Even there no one is ever truly equal. Revanth’s home owner seems comfortable in delegating the job of getting a leaking manhole cleaned to him instead of doing it himself. In one scene he’s even told, “Meerantha inthe,” in a fit of anger by someone he considers his loved one. Mouni is often told – nee valla kaad – so many times that you believe her when she says – niku heart led abba. The two are often handed the short end of the stick through the film but they manage to keep themselves afloat with each other’s help. They even form their own Pyarana Pul between their houses and often meet midway, both literally and figuratively. But what starts out as a light-hearted entertainer with fun moments thanks to Gangavva gets heavier as the film progresses. Even as Mouni dances to Saranga Dariya and Revanth plans for their future together, you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. The couple steal quiet moments in the Metro but the baggage they come along with seems to loom over them. Sekhar Kammula does such a stellar job of helping you invest in Revanth and Mouni’s lives that your heart races when the story gets into the thick of things. It doesn’t help that another young couple they know meet a fate that doesn’t lend them any hope. Scenes where Revanth screams in frustration and Mouni makes it clear that it’s not the women of the house that need to be controlled, it’s the men, stay with you long after the film is done. Naga Chaitanya easily delivers one of his career’s best performances with Revanth. He is handed a character that’s sensitive, polite, understanding of a girl’s boundaries and someone who’s not afraid to go the extra mile for love – and he pulls it off well. Sai Pallavi is a dream to watch when she dances but is a delight when she performs. You cringe whenever she cringes at a man’s touch, your heart breaks when she cries and it soars when she seems to find a trusting partner in Revanth. Rajeev Kanakala is given a role that’s beyond the usual villainism with dialoguebaazi. He remains dependable as ever and pulls off what's needed of him. So are Easwari Rao and Uttej, people who want the best for Revanth yet find his plans foolhardy. Pawan Ch’s music adds to the texture of the film, so does Vijay C Kumar’s camerawork. Love Story is not a film without its flaws though. In an otherwise realistic film, Uttej’s character makes a plan so outlandish to help the couple it almost makes you laugh out loud. But then again, it makes it clear that such drastic measures are needed. The climax too gives in to help Revanth get his heroic moment, even if for a few minutes. Some might even complain that the film ‘drags’ at places, with some scenes placed to drive home a point that has already been noted. Others will say there’s nothing novel at the heart of the story of two individuals trying to convince their families of their love. And as well as Kammula lays out the plot points for the big reveal about Mouni’s past through the film, it makes you wonder if it was hurried through a little. The ending is also rushed through. But he does deserve kudos for handling both caste disparity and child sexual abuse with sensitivity and not using them as just plot points to drive the story forward. These issues are woven into the very being of his lead characters instead. Even if stories about caste disparity have been picked up in the recent past by Tollywood, it’s not often that a film like Love Story is told with such care. And it's definitely not often that women's issues are shown in mainstream cinema. Watch the film if love stories with depth are your cup of tea.Read full review
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