What is the story about?
It’s the early 2000s in Kambalapally, a sleepy village in the interiors of Telangana that’s yet to embrace the digital era fully. A curious teenager Ravi Kumar, having just passed his 12th-grade examinations with great difficulty, can’t wait to dig into the world of computers and the internet. His love for technology only grows with time, thanks to a recently opened computer centre in his village (which he regularly frequents). Ravi’s excitement about creating his first email id doesn’t last long when he’s lured by a spam mail that soon leaves him in debt. Will he come out of this mess scot-free?
Mail (Chapter One – Kambalapally Kathalu) is a sweet little gem whose idyllic, laidback setting filled with innocence, charm and simplicity lingers in your mind long after the viewing. The 2000s premise in the early years of the digital era that explores a village’s tryst with technology is an alluring collage of relationships rooted in reality. Unlike most Telugu rural dramas, the glorification of the backdrop isn’t its priority. All it strives is to genuinely recreate the spirit of everyday-life in villages onto the screen – of raging tempers, sarcasm, opportunism, ignorance of worldly realities, of warm friendships and debts.
It’s a welcome change to lose ourselves in a world inhabited by believable, grounded characters who warrant our empathy with all their eccentricities and quirks. Notice how the owner of the computer centre Hybath asks his customers to not step into his store with slippers and that it could lead to the computer getting infected by a virus. How could you miss the child-like gleam in Ravi’s eyes when he’s told that he could write letters to anyone across the globe through an email id? Look at the innocence of a father who says there’s no use of buying a computer when it’s seemingly similar to a television set.
The film documents an era where we truly trusted the claim made by the spam mailers of winning cash prizes to the tune of crores, those times when a game of Roadrash could make our day, the days where we anxiously waited for our turn to see the exam results near an internet café. Uday Gurrala offers a glimpse of an era which we’ve seemingly outgrown with relative ease. The sense of nostalgia, exquisite cinematography, choice of locations and terrific casting draw us into the narrative effortlessly. Mail strikes a chord because it has a filmmaker who understands that establishing the little details within the backdrop is as crucial as the plot of the film.
While the story is largely about Ravi’s struggles to repay a huge debt he’s incurred while being lured by a spam link, the teenage-romance in his life, filmed with innocence, makes the proceedings livelier. Though the conflict in Ravi’s life hints us of a dark ending in the offing, a delightful twist in the climax keeps the film’s serene-vibe alive. The film’s backdrop may be laidback but the screenplay is as sharp as ever. Priyadarshi lends familiarity to a small film made with a big heart that makes good use of the alternative storytelling medium
Priyadarshi shows great heart in being part of a relatively-small film whose story doesn’t necessarily revolve around him but he ends up giving the reach it truly deserves. Playing the overconfident, boastful internet centre owner who shows off his computer skills despite his minimal understanding of technology, the actor isn’t reduced to his usual sidekick roles and gives a unique identity to a peculiar 20s something who amuses us.
Harshith Malgireddy as Ravi is the find of the film in every sense of the word. He is terrific as the innocent, sometimes-curious and otherwise-anxious 17-year-old who loves the computer as much as his girl. He not only makes his body language an important part of his performance but also fills the frames with his joie de vivre and expressions that are so full of life.
Mani Aegurla as Ravi’s best buddy Subbu blurs the thin line between reel and real in his portrayal of an aimless, opportunistic youngster. Gouri Priya displays great promise in the limited screen-time as the coy and occasionally impulsive girl who means well to those dear to her. Sunny Palle, Anusha Netha and Ravinder Bommakanti are aptly cast in parts as people who complete Ravi’s world.
Music & Other Departments
Kamran with the background score and Sweekar Agasthi with the music give a unique character and a laidback spirit to the village, enhancing the impact of the story by leaps and bounds. Uday Gurrala (doubling up as a cinematographer and a director) and Shyam Dupati as joint cinematographers help us appreciate the village in all its simplicity. The film’s compact running time, sharp edits ensure that the viewer’s attention is not compromised.
Beautiful, heartfelt execution
Wonderful performances by the lead
A few pitfalls while portraying the early 2000s era of the internet
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?