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maTTilOa maanikyaalu
best movies, yet box office failures

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by Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Here is the series that throws light on some of the box-office failures that deserve to be ranked as some of the best movies of Telugu industry. With it, want to highlight the efforts that went into the making of the movie, so that our current generation would never ever forget these long and forgotten gems.

Pelli Pustakam

Conflict is the key issue here. For a drama to succeed or for humor to take roots, the issue of conflict plays a vital role for providing proper payoff. And playing into the hands of conflict, there are some natural situations and themes, which line up neatly in the path of conflict without really trying too much - Marriage, Love, Sports, Struggle (any sort of struggle - unemployment, revolt against the status quo, inner turmoil, external influences etc) to name a few. Though the industry has discovered the power of conflict in the sports arena just recently, the concepts of marriage, love and struggle have been milked to the maximum extent over the past 50 years, and surprisingly the well does not seem to dry up anytime in the near future. Tie two people together in a marriage of convenience. Drag them apart, emotionally, due to careers of convenience. Keep them individually busy, emotionally unavailable for each other, in acquaintances of convenience. Sit back and watch the events unfold, when all the conveniences finally add up to one big inconvenience, erupting the emotional volcanoes among each of them, spewing out all the bad blood, and settle down together, after the painful but necessary rite of passage. With a potentially explosive theme like this, the script would automatically write itself, if the only characters are placed in the right situations, right in the paths of admiration, jealousy, affection, possessiveness, respect and belittlement - all the different paths that lead up to the road of love. While "Missmma" (Old), the movie that "Pelli Pustakam" pays homage to, revels in the clash of cultures of the lead characters, this movie magnifies the clash of conveniences that the lead characters undertake, that tests the mettle of their relationship, while pointing out the brittleness of its foundation.

Discovery of new things at each turn keeps the newly weds on their toes. The volatile mix, that is usually a combination of apprehension, surprise, blind-siding and non-readiness, which brews up when two people enter into a relationship, without any prior knowledge about each other, assures that sparks are going to fly all over, even at the slightest hint of trouble. After the initial charm fades away while the couple gets ready for the long haul, niceties slowly turn into bluntness and manners grudgingly make way for convenience and recedence of priorities start to move up and down the list, ironically hinting that they started to grow comfortable in each other's company. It is right at this point of transition, when situations tug them in two different directions, does things seem to fall apart and the very foundations, that they thought would be the basis of their relationship, are called into serious question. Mullapoodi Venkata Ramana captures this interesting period of adjustment in every marriage, book marking the different phases of the transition - suspicion to familiarity, familiarity to comfort, comfort to enjoyment, enjoyment to possessiveness, possessiveness to jealousy, jealousy to contempt, contempt to hatred, hatred to insecurity, insecurity to discretion, discretion to levelheadedness, levelheadedness to suspicion - and then the cycle starts all over again and repeats itself over the entire course of the relationship. This act of tearing down the structure and rebuilding it every time it is rocked by, or atleast threatened by, forces - internal and external, makes the relationship a truly dynamic one, emphatically emphasizing the fact, that once the knot is tied and the couple sing a duet and walk away into the sunset, things WOULD NOT stay the same and the couple in question WOULD NOT remain happily ever after.

The fascinating aspect of Ramana's script is that it treats the institution of marriage, not just like an open book, but more as an unread one, whose various twists and turns mirror the vagaries of the marriage, keeping the players always guessing about the next move. Instead of taking the usual serious route that is often prescribed to these heavy sentiment laden subjects, Ramana falls back upon his fort - humor, that wildly swings between sarcasm and scathe. KK's jealousy of "Sangundi Menon" is balanced finely with Bhama's possessiveness during "Miss Urmila" episode. Bhama's irritation in relation to "baasu kuTTi" finds its match in KK's revulsion for "baasu baavamaridi". At no point in the entire script, does Ramana take sides in the relationship, identifying with one character more than the other, which is contrary to the case that the writer usually finds a voice in one character, with which he indentifies himself more. This detachment gives an objective perspective of things, finding fault with both the lead characters when things start going awry. KK dubs "baasu kuTTi" fascination for him as just adolescent infatuation and her fawning over him just as 'fan'ning for his talent, while does not take it equally lightly when "baasu baavamaridi" tries to shower the same level of adulation over Bhama and brush it off as just a harmless crush. He insteads justifies it with a quotable quote - "asooya ghaaTaina prameku thermometeru". Even when KK justfies his indiscretions vis-a-vis "baasukuTTi" as unavoidable work hazard (aapaddharma vrutthi dharmam) and explains that "tanu chaesaedi SRungaaram kaavacchu, naenu chaesaedi maatram vyabhichaaram kaadu", Ramana does not let him off the hook that easily, making him pay for his stupidity, culminating into the emotional breakdown in the end. And then, there is Bapu.

Where the delightful script of Ramana ends, Bapu begins his work silently etching and sketching the portraits of the characters in fine strokes - Bhaama's kohl (kaaTuka) eyes whip lashing at KK indicating her strong disagreement, KK's jubilation at finding a fan (more importantly, a FEMALE one, at that) in "baasu kuTTi", "baasu kuTTi"'s child like adoration of KK (and/or his talents), "baasu baavamaridi"'s menacingly predatorial taunt while closing on his prey (Bhama). Bapu showcases his subtlety in that scene when KK pulls his back in his badminton duel with "baasu kuTTi" and return home, to find Bhaama, put on a mock display of "badminton naatyam" (a curious mix of bharata naatyam and badminton), in finely balanced act between biting sarcasm and mock adulation. Bringing out the best in each of them, Ramana and Bapu author "peLLi pustakam" with great care, accounting everything from trivial to the paramount, purposefully leaving scores of unfilled pages at the end while creating space for more (mis)adventures and funfilled memories. It is like that good old book that was read long ago, languishing in the shelf, but which when reopened and re-read, gives out a different perspective - a perspective that is changed by maturity, a perspective that is altered by experience and a perspective that is radical with every read. It is like that book that ought to be preserved and cherish for periods to come.


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