LOL Salaam is at its best while showcasing the camaraderie of five aimless youngsters though the same can't be told about its politics
What's it about:
LOL Salaam, created and directed by Naani Bandreddi, is a story of five frivolous youngsters from Hyderabad who haven't made great progress in their lives. John can barely play the piano at the church despite his best efforts, while Naidu's unsuccessful streak with job interviews doesn't look like ending anytime soon. Varma, who's seeing a TV journalist Sahasya, always remains confused about his relationship. Khan is caught in a soup with a group of money lenders and Reddy keeps giving lame excuses to avoid marriage. Hoping to forget their woes briefly, the five friends plan a trip to Bogatha waterfalls. All hell breaks loose when their car breaks down. Wiling away their time at a forest, Reddy unexpectedly steps on a landmine. What's in store for the boys?
LOL Salaam never aims too big or seeks to accomplish anything pathbreaking and we say that for a good reason. The entire premise of the show revolves around a holiday gone wrong; the filmmaker Naani Bandreddi comes up with unusual situations to blend it with a political conspiracy and the result isn't all that bad. The atmosphere in the show is largely casual, which is expected for a buddy comedy. The conversations between the five 20s-something men dealing with the harsh realities of life are relatable, though the overdose of expletives doesn't serve the purpose. While all the characters have their share of struggles, there's enough humour in the bag to distract us from their gloom.
Varma's passion-less conversations with his girlfriend Sahasya evoke some laughter. The idea of involving an elderly man amidst the bunch of five friends (through the 'babai' character) brings variety into the mix. In several situations, LOL Salaam surprises you with its ability to take a dig at superstitions, dogmas and address social issues with a touch of wit. John's duel with his overly conservative father is an example to show why common sense needs to prevail over religion at times. Khan's condemnation of animal sacrifice and age-old practices in the middle of a crisis surprisingly strikes a chord. The narrative is largely situational and doesn't go out of the way to deliver sermons.
The performances by the newcomers, though honest, are raw. Sandeep Bharadwaj and Vasu Inturi's confrontations are hilarious to watch and merited more screen-time. Rohit Krishna Varma has a good knack for comedy playing a confused man who's clueless about dealing with his partner. Not all of Srinivas Ramideddy's comic punches work, while the humorous exchanges between Kivish Kautilya, Pavan Kumar and Darahas Maturu are a hoot. Harshavardhan is as dependable as ever but doesn't have much to do in a show that lets the young blood shine.
The writing in LOL Salaam is uneven and the narrative loses its momentum at critical situations in the story. The fun moments leading to the holiday remain reasonably interesting though the director struggles to balance politics and comedy after the action shifts to the dense forest (where one of the characters steps on a landmine). The humour loses its spunk, especially with the episode where Varma meets his girlfriend at a police station and makes vain efforts to save his friend. The entire subplot around a group of Naxals sticks out like a sore thumb and the idea of reducing 'Laal Salaam' to a joke with the title (LOL Salaam) is in poor taste.
Beyond the lead characters, none of the other parts is well-fleshed out, from the supposedly progressive school teacher to the female Naxalite who desires to lead a regular life. There's not much effort to look at lives from multiple dimensions. The casual ambience that works quite well in the beginning is the show's curse in its later portions. The caricaturish portrayal of media is unfunny and exaggerated beyond necessity. The simplistic ending is another example where the writing warranted more detailing and nuance. LOL Salaam is amateurishly shot and looks more like a YouTube snippet at times.
LOL Salaam starts on an entertaining note and is well-intentioned. It's the unimaginative writing and gawky execution that play spoilsport. Just for a few silly laughs.