Naga Chaitanya, Sai Pallavi, Rajeev Kanakala deliver knock-out performances in this memorable, gripping romance
Revanth is a struggling Zumba coach who runs a small-time fitness centre in Hyderabad. He has a new neighbour, Mounica, an engineering passout with a passion for dance, who is committed to finding a well-paid software job. Their paths cross each other and they turn business partners to revive the fortunes of the Zumba-coaching centre. The two fall in love but need to overcome several societal barriers that threaten to derail their relationship. Do they have what it takes to fight their destiny and stay together despite their obstacles?
Sekhar Kammula is one of the most important contributors to Telugu cinema today. He is responsible for paving the middle road path to tell sensible, sensitive stories without losing out on commercial appeal and Love Story is a significant addition to his filmography. The film reminds you why we must celebrate and value his work all the more. In the garb of a romance, the film reflects the larger reality, the dark corners of our society, telling a story about a fight for identity. In doing so, Love Story remains a gripping, entertaining film that's shot like a dream, has stellar music and fantastic performances by the cast.
The film moves beyond the mushiness of staple romances and acknowledges the significance of self-respect, personal space and consent in relationships. Love Story looks at its lead characters, a struggling Zumba coach Revanth and an engineering passout Mounica, as individuals and not merely as a much-in-love couple. Dance lays the foundation for their equation. Beyond societal barriers and their internal conflicts, it's dance that sets them free and brings them together. Unlike their home town Armoor, where caste barriers are very pronounced, they enjoy the anonymity of urban life. The character establishment and romance are so gradual, almost built brick by brick, never rushed and it's a reason why you sense the depth in their relationship.
From the very first frame, Love Story makes no bones of what it wants to tell and emphasises why dignity is a basic right and necessity of human existence. It's a struggle for Revanth (who hails from a marginalised community) at every step in his life. Right from the time he has to go for a haircut as a child to establishing a Zumba centre in a city and asking for a loan in a bank, he is reminded of his place. The conflicts for Mounica, hailing from a (supposedly) revered family, are no less. She has to confront a beast in the form of an evil uncle, has to live with a family where she can't express her innermost fears while people around constantly judge her, poke a finger at her limitations.
Love Story packs in little details and quirks to each of its characters without revealing much. The moments where Revanth's mother comes to visit her son's new Zumba centre and the couple sharing its first dance are beautifully constructed. Despite discussing social issues intensely, the film's charm lies in its lifelike humour - the initial friction, the cute little tiffs between the couple, the conversations between Revanth and her mother in addition to the many unusual clients he has to tolerate every day. Ch Pawan's music flows into the film quite organically, while Vijay C Kumar's visuals, especially in songs like Winner Winner, Evo Evo Kalale are a sight to behold and adds so much flavour, texture to the storytelling.
Never has a Sekhar Kammula film looked so good. Unlike Fidaa, the director utilises the opportunity to explore the relationship dynamics in a village on a deeper, brutal level. In the second hour, the focus predominantly shifts to the love story and the complications that arise out of it, while the dance element (unexpectedly) takes a back seat. There's heart-pounding drama, raw action when the couple decides to confront their barriers sans fear. Love Story may not provide a solution to discrimination based on caste and gender, but it tells the importance of raising your voice. The hurried climax sticks out like a sore thumb though.
Naga Chaitanya in the shoes of a small-town protagonist is an unlikely casting choice who springs a pleasant surprise, performing without any inhibitions, mouthing the Telangana slang and dancing like a dream. The Fidaa hangover and the similarity in the Telangana setting apart, Sai Pallavi pitches in with a sensitive, winning act reflecting the spirit of a woman who wishes to write her own destiny. Easwari Rao is another asset to the film and her easy, casual chemistry with her on-screen son (Naga Chaitanya) is a delight to watch. After a very long time, veterans like Rajeev Kanakala and Utthej get meaty roles that do justice to their experience. Gangavva is sparkling in a special appearance, whereas Devayani, Ananda Chakrapani are effective in their brief parts.
Love Story, but for an abrupt climax, is a fantastic film where the romance between the lead characters is utilised as a tool to discuss the many ugly facets of our society. The love story is beautiful, so are the well-etched characters and the performances. The memorable soundtrack, the dazzling cinematography are a feast for the senses. Sekhar Kammula's hard-hitting film, on the whole, is a complete package that makes for a fulfilling watch.