What is the story about?
Tharun Bhascker’s Ramula –
Ram Chander, an aimless son of a former Telangana MLA, is head over heels in love with a feisty girl Ramula. A bitter fight between the two brings a crooked, ambitious leader Swaroopakka into the fore and all hell breaks loose.
Nandini Reddy’s Meera –
A businessman Shiva and a writer Meera are in an unhappy marriage for over 9 years now. Meera is pregnant with her third child but problems mount with Shiva’s growing insecurity, as he consistently suspects the presence of another man in his wife’s life.
Nag Ashwin’s X Life –
An arrogant entrepreneur Vikram is the brain behind the virtual reality application X Life that has taken the world by storm. His product is often accused of manipulating human insecurities and relationships. Vikram’s life takes a new turn as he falls for his company’s waitress Divya.
Sankalp Reddy’s Pinky –
Pinky’s neither made peace with her past nor is she happy with her present. Married to Harsha, she finds solace in her affair with a novelist Vivek. Vivek and Indu are parents to a young girl and have decided to shift abroad for better career aspects. However, they’re put in a spot of bother with an unexpected revelation.
Pitta Kathalu, an anthology show, revolving around four women and the many conflicts in their lives, marks the entry of Netflix in the Telugu original space. The backdrops of the four shorts are as different as chalk and cheese, yet that doesn’t guarantee us a wholly impressive show. Only Tharun Bhascker and Nandini Reddy among the four prove to be adept with the shorter storytelling format, while Sankalp Reddy and Nag Ashwin seem completely clueless and amateurish in packaging their content for 30-odd-minutes.
Ramula – The best short among the four by a fair distance, Tharun Bhascker proves why he’s one among Telugu cinema’s most promising new-age talents. The filmmaker springs a surprise with his rooted understanding of regional politics and the complexity of human psyche. Ramula is a fine marriage of political drama and romance in a rustic setting. The slice-of-life, casually profound treatment with a dash of satire, humour and raw emotions is complemented by terrific casting and equally impactful performances. Slick, relatable and engaging, this short leaves you craving for more.
Meera – Nandini Reddy, who has taken the tried-and-tested route with her relationship dramas in the web and feature film space, changes gears with a dark, gritty short that captures the conflicts in an unhappy marriage of a middle-aged couple. With a story inspired by the works of Guy de Maupassant and Roald Dahl, the film throws light on the duality of human behaviour and the trigger that could lead to self-destruction. For a significant part, the short looks like any other story about an insecure husband and a beautiful, young wife, though it gradually unveils its layers. The skill of the storytelling lies in the abstraction, deceptive characterisation although the climax needn’t have been as sudden and hurried.
XLife – This short is a joke on the audience, especially those who come here after watching Nag Ashwin’s two superb feature films. In a dystopian setting, XLife is a cautionary tale where technology blurs the line between real and virtual, adversely impacting human relationships and the functioning of the world. The filmmaker makes a mess of what could have been a biting satire on the virtual space, struggling to establish his characters within a stipulated time in a futuristic backdrop. The writing is bland, simplistic, bereft of nuance and there’s no emotional connection to this make-believe world that feels like a cheap parody on Black Mirror. The casting is inept, the performances soulless.
Pinky – Another effort that bites the dust but for a delectable twist towards the end, Sankalp Reddy’s work is not a patch on his earlier projects Ghazi and Antariksham. The short is not only unrealistic but reflects the filmmaker’s immaturity in portraying interpersonal relationships. The story is a deadlock-like situation where a man and a woman are caught between their past and present and cannot make sense of the two. There’s immense tension in the climax but the director waters it down with an inconclusive, sudden ending. The writer’s understanding of the publishing world and a writer’s mind is laughable. The filmmaking here is marginally better than the writing.
Saanve Megghana is a revelation as the hot-blooded, feisty girl who has a bigger say in her relationship. She has the right firebrand-aggression to portray the raw emotions of her character. Naveen Bethiganti finally gets a near-perfect project to prove his worth as a bankable performer and he is gifted with a rare ability to make acting seem so effortless. Lakshmi Manchu’s performance as a crooked politician is a delight to watch, be it her dialogue delivery in the Telangana slang or the fieriness with which she depicts the grey shades in her part.
Amala Paul has been consistently choosing projects wisely in recent years and Meera is yet another feather in her cap. Not only does she look ethereally beautiful but also displays immense skill in reflecting the duality of her character. Jagapathi Babu nearly makes you empathise for his part despite being morally wrong and this is easily among his better-written characters that go a lot beyond conventional villainy. The presence of Ashwin Kakumanu, Vamsi Chaganti, Sunaina are aptly utilised.
Sanjith Hegde’s inexperience as an actor despite his best efforts to camouflage it with the uber-cool, casual exterior. Shruti Haasan is miscast in a poorly written role, her emotive abilities have consistently remained poor and the horrid Telugu dubbing in her shaky voice adds to her problems. Anish Kuruvilla is hardly appealing in a blink-and-a-miss appearance. Sathyadev Kancharana, Srinivas Avasarala and Eesha Rebba are capable performers beyond doubt, but they get dull, soulless parts that hardly tests their mettle. Ashima Narwal barely impresses.
Music & Other Departments
Vivek Sagar is excellent in blending silence with his richly flavoured, rooted musical score that multiples the impact of Ramula manifold. Composer Mickey J Meyer surprises you with his command in a genre that hasn’t been forte in feature films, whereas the likes of Sanjith Hegde and Soorya Praveen lend a fresh twist to an otherwise bland short (Xlife). Prashanth Vihari too does a decent job of milking the tension in the situation for his effective background music. All the shorts, Ramula, Xlife, Meera and Pinky have been shot well in diverse backdrops. Among them, only two, Ramula and Meera use the dialogue effectively in their storytelling. The writing, on the whole, lacks depth and variety.
Quality execution of Ramula
Strong contributions from the technicians
Lacks emotional connect, shallow
Poor characterisation, absence of solid performances
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?