Filmmaker K Jayadev’s work is an authentic portrait of life in the agency region in Andhra Pradesh with realistic performances and impressive cinematography
Koyalamma, a single parent, runs a small-time tea stall in Korangi along with her son Thomas and daughter Mariamma. Only two buses ply Korangi every day and the livelihood of the family is largely dependent on it. Thomas is a small-time worker in the forest region and his mother’s only concern is to get him married. Meanwhile, in a bid to cut down on growing fuel expenses, the government plans to halt bus services to Korangi. How does it affect Thomas’ marriage plans?
Korangi Nunchi (Who’ll marry Thomas) is an earnest attempt to depict the life of a small-time tea owner in Korangi, in the vicinity of the agency region of Andhra Pradesh. The premise is quite innovative, depicting how a bus service to the village affects their existence. The concerns in the village are universally relevant - urban migration, livelihood issues, conservatism and there’s very little hope for a rosy future.
The main advantage and disadvantage of an equal measure for Korangi Nunchi is the absence of a cinematic flavour and there’s hardly any exaggeration from writer-director K Jayadev. The scope for drama is very little and a major part of the film is concerned with the minutiae of a villager’s daily life. The world of the film comprises a family, their neighbours, a pastor-cum-doctor, a bus driver and a rare tourist in the region.
The film’s principal character, Koyalamma, is particularly written well. She is a single parent who raises three kids after her husband leaves her and beneath the lively, strong persona lies many psychological wounds. She knows what it means to lead a life without a partner and doesn’t want her son to experience the same plight. The other little details in their world - say, how the tribals’ universe is so intertwined with nature, are intriguing to watch. (particularly Vikranth’s interaction with tourists)
Beyond Koyalamma and Thomas, Jayadev wants this to be the story of Korangi and shows how their lives haven’t changed despite the passage of time. Anthony Katta’s character as a drunkard is used as a tool to blurt out uncomfortable truths about the region. He satirically says God is partial to those who live in cities and tells the world considers Korangi natives as ghosts, with their existence holding little or no value. Despite knowing that things may not change much in the future, they still soldier on.
An issue with the film is the absence of focus - the run time is brief, the characters are a little too many and the backstories are a tad simplistic. Hence it never becomes the hard-hitting drama it aspires to be. However, Korangi Nunchi is a story that had to be told - the lives of the marginalised matter and so do their issues, however little or big they’re. It’s rare to see a protagonist from a religious minority and a filmmaker genuinely making an effort to understand their socio-economic background.
The director, through a news clipping, could’ve done a better job at explaining the reason behind halting bus services to Korangi. The best part of Korangi Nunchi is all there in the filmmaker’s head but only a few of his ideas translate well on the screen. Madhu Ambat’s cinematography lends Korangi an identity as a region. The musical element to the film, despite having a veteran like Vidyasagar, remains underutilised and there are ample instances that would’ve made for decent song situations.
Kasibhotla Venugopal’s dialogues are a major highlight of Korangi Nunchi; it’s an important reason why a viewer is convinced that this is the story of the soil. The film rides mainly on Archana and Vikranth’s performances. Benarjee, Nagineedu and Katta Anthony make an impact among the supporting cast. K Jayadev’s premise is unique and that’s the reason why you appreciate the film despite its pitfalls.
K Jayadev deserves praise for telling a story like Korangi Nunchi. The film, on a technical level, may lack a certain cinematic finesse owing to a few limitations but its intention is sincere. Archana’s dominant screen presence, Vikranth’s measured performance and Madhu Ambat’s cinematography carry the soul of the film.
(The film can be streamed here as part of Indic Film Utsav 2022)