In the still-young Telugu digital entertainment space that’s yet to find a clear direction, the presence of Aha’s latest offering Kotha Poradu feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s a simple story that mirrors the travails and struggles of every small-town youngster who shifts base to a city in the quest for employment and secure living. Beyond addressing the small town-big city divide, the Anvesh Michael-directed show stands out for its honest effort to capture the rustic flavour of interior Telangana. There is an appealing casualness and simplicity in the proceedings, so much that the camera placement amid the scenes in the village feels accidental.
Kotha Poradu is essentially a story about a hot-blooded youngster Raju (played by the director Anvesh) and his failed attempts to repay the debts that his (no longer alive) father Istharayya had left behind. A gamut of quirky characters unique to every village livens up the narrative. The incorrigible flirt, the friend who always advises the villagers to migrate to the city, the aggressor who’s waiting for an opportunity to avenge his insult, a bunch of wastrels who persistently booze and don’t aim big in life, women whose lives are confined to their men are all part of this universe.
The initial episodes take their own sweet time to establish the atmospherics of the small-town setting. The village atmosphere isn’t always romanticised – it shows both the pros and cons of living in a close-knit community where not everyone minds their own business. The lives more or less revolve around money, marriage, celebration and exploitation (either they exploit others or are exploited). It merely shows the life they lead and isn’t judgemental about the choices they make. The easy-going tone of the narrative helps the viewing experience.
The plot takes an interesting turn when the backdrop shifts to Hyderabad. Raju’s inability to keep a check on his wagging tongue and hold onto a job, the unexpected film acting opportunity that lands at his doorstep, bring much-needed momentum to the show. Lolli, the title of the film that Raju’s a part of, is a rare case of a meta-attempt done well. The chemistry between Raju and the maid-turned-actor Begumpet Sukanya is electrifying. The parallels between their off-screen and on-screen romance lend an intriguing dimension to the show. However, another character Mallesh’s transformation into a transgender to avenge his lover’s betrayal seemed more forced than necessary. On the whole, Kotha Poradu opens us to a lot of quirky characters beyond the lead protagonist. Istharayya, the father of Raju, is a delight as the unapologetic flirt. Begumpet Sukanya’s nonchalance as the headstrong maid-turned-actor is a riot. The cheeky producer and the director who exploit small-time actors to complete their indie-project are as real as they can get. The culmination may seem simplistic and convenient after all, but Anvesh Micheal infuses such candour in the storytelling that the minor follies don’t bother much.
Despite the wafer-thin plot, the laidback, easy flow of the screenplay keeps you thoroughly entertained. The satirical undertones, the aggression, the frustration in the conversations are life-like and there’s no effort to make the dialogues sound like punchlines. Anvesh Michael’s faith in local actors pays him rich dividends. Sai Prasanna, Sudhakar Reddy, Sripal Macharla, Jagadeesh Pratap and Camp Sasi turn out to be wonderful finds, who truly deserve more work coming their way.
Composer Smaran’s tactful use of the Sagara Sangamam number besides a host of catchy, flavourful numbers prove instrumental to the seamless flow of the proceedings. Sound designer Nagarjun Thallapalli after his astounding contribution in C/O Kancharapalem yet again shows why it’s important for filmmakers to care for the layering of sound and how far they can go in contributing to the flavour of a narrative. The cinematographer Vasu Pendem preserves the ordinariness in the lives of the characters through his visuals. It’s amazing how the show rises above individual contributions and impresses as a holistic effort.