Is love alone enough for a relationship to weather its storms? Ravikanth Perepu’s tale goes beyond merely engaging its target audience
Sai Aditya, the son of a chicken shop owner and a budding DJ, is head over heels in love with a rich girl Jahnavi, who’s six months away from chasing her academic dreams in Turkey. As much as they like one another, it doesn’t take long for them to realise that their worlds don’t have a meeting ground. While their worlds clash, will their relationship weather all the storms?
When Ravikanth Perepu pulls off something like Kshanam, it’s only natural that he would want to capitalise on its success and sustain his momentum in a familiar terrain. With an unlikely rom-com Krishna and his Leela, he broke the second film-jinx in style, unveiling an edgier, exciting dimension to his repertoire. The film’s acceptance has given him greater courage to try his hand at a trickier tale.
Bubblegum’s universe is replete with cinematic appeal - the premise gives a hyper local spin to the Romeo-Juliet saga. Aditya, unaffected by his mediocre existence, is a budding DJ who falls for Jahnavi, a fashion enthusiast, hailing from a privileged family. They’re barely 22, their perspectives on love, career and identity aren’t fully evolved yet but they’re keen on giving their relationship a chance.
It would’ve been quite convenient for a director to have taken the slapstick comedy route to explore the clash between their contrasting worlds and tell the hot-blooded story through a male lens, but Ravikanth chooses the difficult path. He refuses to go below the belt, keeps the film vibrant and thoroughly engaging. The journey isn’t all that smooth and still makes for a fun viewing.
The old (Hyderabad) city-backdrop for a tale centred on a chicken shop owner’s son, his music career and love life was always going to be colourful. The challenge for the filmmaker was to capture the ambitions and vulnerabilities of a girl born with a silver spoon and not slut-shame her. The contrasts are inevitably funny - in simple terms, she’s vegan and he loves biryani.
There’s more to the film beyond the romance between two 20s-something protagonists. The other relationships - between Jahnvi’s ‘broad-minded’ parents and Aditya’s ‘bickering’ parents - provide additional subtext to their story. There’s awkwardness in how a father helps his son navigate adulthood. Despite their differences, the parents give their wards enough freedom to make their choices.
Bubblegum has a restless vibe going for it in the first hour. The background score is intentionally intoxicating, the film is bursting with colours and relies heavily on verbal humour to keep the screenplay ticking along. Within a commercial space, the film tries its best to stay true to the setting sans distraction and builds the tension well leading to an emotionally charged pre-interval sequence.
Surprisingly, just when you expect the momentum to pick up further, the film sobers down and loses its fizz slightly. If the first hour was all about the guy trying his best to fit into his girl’s world, there’s a vice-versa scenario post-intermission, until all hell breaks loose (again). Overlong by at least half an hour, the film mirrors their commitment issues, career conflicts authentically.
Aditya’s battle between love and his quest for individual identity, dignified existence is indeed the lifeline of the story. Bubblegum strikes a chord because it refuses to antagonise the girl for her decisions. As much as love, the film addresses the need for couples to give each other respect, time and the space (to understand their differences) for relationships to flourish.
Both the debutants Roshan Kanakala and Maanasa Chaudhary bare their souls in the intense sequences, bringing the vulnerabilities in their flawed characters alive and coming up with assured performances. If Roshan’s strength is his fearless screen presence, Maanasa lends much-needed sensitivity to her part. The emotional transition in Roshan’s character could’ve come through better.
Meanwhile, another first-timer Jayram Eeshwar brings the roof down as the witty, wise father. The camaraderie between Jayram and the in-form Bindu Chandramouli (as parents) is a major highpoint. Kiran Macha, Anannyaa Akulaa, while offering a reality check to the protagonist, perform well, though the comic punches feel like an overdose beyond a point.
Harshvardhan and Anu Hasan fit the bill as the wise, matured parents.It’s hard to imagine what the film would’ve been without Sricharan Pakala’s wildly innovative music score (among the songs, Izzat is the pick of the lot) and Suresh Ragutu’s work behind the lens - Bubblegum owes its atmospheric audio-visual appeal to their contributions.
Bubblegum isn’t by any means a candyfloss romance. Ravikanth Perepu courageously explores the dark corners of a relationship between opposites in their early 20s and looks at their lives beyond love, mirroring their confusions. Roshan Kanakala, Maanasa Choudhary, Jayram Eeshwar get a fine start to their acting careers. If only the makers were more judicious with the runtime in the second hour, Bubblegum’s aftertaste would’ve been sweeter.