Director Krish is back in form in this action-adventure that tells an engaging story quite relevant for the times
Kataru Ravindra (Vaisshnav Tej) is a young man from a family of shepherds, who is struggling to find a job in the city despite multiple attempts from four years. While he returns to his home town, he is asked to go forest grazing along with his father Gurappa (Sai Chand) to acclimatise with the lifestyle of a shepherd. He meets Obulamma (Rakul) during the journey, with whom he falls in love. However, he has bigger battles to fight too. Konda Polam is a coming-of-age tale of this youngster whose life takes a different direction after his tryst with nature.
If one digs deep into filmmaker Krish Jagarlamudi's diverse body of work, his stories (regardless of the genre) have served as a humble reminder of our roots in their own little ways - looking back at the very core of our society, what we are as humans and the role we can play in making the world a better place. Konda Polam, an on-screen adaptation of Sannapureddy Venkatarami Reddy's award-winning Telugu novel, fittingly proves Krish's credentials as a storyteller again. He brings to life a relevant, moving tale of a young man's inward quest to be a better version of himself in the lap of nature.
In a world that's constantly striving to find answers to 'the man versus wild' battle, Konda Polam cautions us about tinkering with the ecological balance in the planet, if we're to leave behind a better society for the generations ahead. When a well-educated youngster, Kataru Ravindra Yadav from Rayalaseema struggles to adapt to the demands of the corporate world, hunting for jobs one after the other in a concrete jungle, he has to lose himself in the real jungle to come to terms with himself and his limitations. He not only finds his purpose in this journey but also a companion, with whom he shares a common love for nature.
Krish makes good use of the novel's detailing to portray the daily realities in the life of a shepherd. From their love for the soil to their hope for rain in a drought-affected region to their treatment of animals as one among their kin and kith, the shepherds live as one with nature and don't seek a separate identity. As they go forest grazing over the hills, it's music, companionship that provides them with some solace while countering various threats. Providing a picture of their mental resolve, a character Gurappa tells, "It's goats that need to fear the wild. We're the ones who need to give them strength. We have nothing to fear"
The tiger (referred to as the 'big fox' in the film) that Ravindra needs to confront as a shepherd works more like a metaphor, a mental roadblock that he needs to move past if he has to survive. The first thing that catches Ravindra's attention about his love interest Obulamma too is her fearlessness. Despite being uneducated, she calls the forest her best teacher. Konda Polam is a culmination of many such interactions between the shepherds and the experiences that change Ravindra's path. The director tweaks various aspects of the novel in the process, but the essence isn't lost, all thanks to the presence of the novel writer in the adaptation.
The forest backdrop is an exquisite visual delight. VS Gnanasekhar's cinematography takes us through dense forests, hills, scenic landscapes and truly depicts what it means to find oneself amidst nature. The clutter-free narration makes you want to become one among the shepherds as you notice the integrity in their characterisation. Krish creates several lively and entertaining characters that come with unique quirks. The VFX, CGI work in the digital recreation of the tiger is top-notch. Sannapureddy's dialogues ring in authenticity to the setting.
Konda Polam works best when it deals with the protagonist's conflicts, in and beyond the jungle. Otherwise, it has too many loose subplots that don't tie up rather well, especially with the one about the workers caught in the sandalwood smuggling mafia (remains inconclusive). Many characters populate the film in the first hour (Hema, Ravi Prakash, Anthony, Mahesh Vitta to name a few), but their stories don't take a concrete direction beyond a point. The interpretation of Ravindra's encounter with the tiger during the job interview in the climax is tastefully done. It's refreshing that one filmmaker after the other is trusting the Telugu audience's intellect to 'get' their world without spoonfeeding/diluting the nuances.
Vaisshnav Tej makes good progress from his debut and he should thank his stars to land a superb script like Konda Polam in only his second film. Ravindra isn't an easy role to play, largely because the transformation is so gradual and psychological and the actor is composed enough to mirror that transition phase. Rakul Preet is sparkling in what's easily one of her best performances in a Telugu film. She's not only a pretty face who gets to do the naach-gaana routine. Obulamma is so integral to the plot, getting to deliver some of the most well-written lines.
Very few actors can portray themselves as the son of the soil as well as Sai Chand does. He's effortless and effective in the role of a concerned father who expects his son to dream and achieve big. Ravi Prakash, Hema, Kota Srinivasa Rao, Annapurnamma, Mahesh Vitta, Racha Ravi are wonderful in whatever little they get to do. This is also MM Keeravani's best as a composer in many years - the script gives him the liberty to invest all his experience and bring together a meaningful yet entertaining product.
Go watch Konda Polam. There's adventure, there's romance, there's self-transformation, there's superb music and ultimately they unite for a purposeful, refreshing film. Konda Polam is a world you wouldn't want to leave during the end credits. Vaisshnav Tej, Rakul Preet, Sai Chand shine with assured performances and the film reinstates Krish's capabilities as a storyteller.