Suresh Palla’s film has ambitious ideas though the drama doesn’t always soar to great heights
Prasad, a bank employee, known to immortalise Lord Krishna in plays, stands up for his fellow villagers in the hour of need. Meanwhile, Rajesh, a good-for-nothing son of a local head, falls for a village belle Rama. All hell breaks loose when Rajesh and his friends get drunk in the company of Rama. What connects their mess to Prasad?
Mythology has always served as a mask for Telugu writers to lend better depth and a layered interpretation to modern-day tales. In Krishna Ghattam, director Suresh Palla narrates a twisted incident in a village through the eyes of a theatre artist popular for his mythological portrayals. Besides the meta-narrative and the off-stage drama, the filmmaker gives the tale a compelling socio-fantasy touch.
The debutant draws a parallel between myth and reality through a short story from the post-Kurukshetra war era in Mahabharata. After the war, there’s no hope in sight; the internal squabbles between the loyalists of the Kaurava and Pandava dynasties leave Krishna dejected. While putting together a play based on this story, a theatre actor tries to call a truce between two parties in a conflict.
While there’s not much to dispute with Suresh Palla’s premise, the storytelling isn’t always seamless. The film narrates two subplots simultaneously - of a theatre actor Prasad and the misadventures of a spoilt brat Rajesh and his group of friends (and how their worlds merge). The director is more in control of his proceedings while dealing with Prasad’s story. There's appreciable authenticity in bringing the Telugu theatre backdrop to life.
The tale is under-wrought as the focus shifts to Rajesh’s world. Though the identities of Rajesh and his friends are etched well, the staging of the sequences is dull to evince much interest. Suresh’s idea to generate a contrast between Prasad’s challenge (thrown by his theatre counterpart Murali) and Rajesh’s bet (with his friend Sharath) fails to impress.
The ‘chastity’ challenge between Rajesh and Sharath needed a stronger basis. The scenes when Sharath tries to resist the charm of a prostitute Latha are hardly captivating. Their conversations - the chess game, the beauty with brains talk, references to retro songs - could’ve been precise. Yet, the sequence where Latha holds up a mirror to Sharath and reveals his true colours makes a definite impact.
The soul of Krishna Ghattam as a film lies in the final 30-minute stretch. The drama finally soars to expected levels, the tension between on-stage and off-stage theatrics heats up and a twist denies you a sugar-coated ending. A beautiful conversation sums up the film’s essence and Lord Krishna’s philosophy. It’s up to Rajesh to be wise, take charge of his destiny as he tries to rise above his follies.
While the film leaves you with a good aftertaste, it needed more consistency to create a lasting impression. Among the cast, Venkat Govada and Chaitanya Krishna steal the show and get refreshingly layered parts that test their mettle in handling drama, delivering chaste Telugu dialogues. Vinay Nallakadi’s portrayal of Sharath is sincere but the character needed a juicier conflict for the emotional outburst.
Duvvasi Mohan is impactful in a role that doesn’t reduce him to a sidekick and values his worth as a performer. Sasha Singh’s earnest performance can’t conceal the stereotypical, cinematic characterisation of a prostitute. Maya Nelluri and Bombay Padma do what’s expected of them whereas Aashish Neerati, Durga Prasannaa Kemburi and the supporting cast chip in, when needed. PR’s background score adds a new dimension to the drama in the pivotal moments.
Through the mythological angle in the film, director Suresh Palla asks his viewers to be more aware, cautious of their choices. He addresses alcoholism, speaks of the necessity to be humbled for one to gain knowledge and wisdom. It’s a storytelling experiment that may not be perfect but is a genuine effort at creating an original piece of art.
Krishna Ghattam is a novel attempt at using a meta-narrative with mythological parallels for a rural drama. Although the film is not consistently engaging, the storyteller shows promise with his imaginative interpretation of a twisted rural tale. Chaitanya Krishna, Venkat Govada make the most of their layered characters.