Konda Polam Movie Review: A well-intentioned yet haphazard coming of age tale
Although this Krish Jagarlamudi directorial brims of life, the warmth and the inspiring nature of the story barely seep into the whole film
Last week’s release Republic had a scene where Sai Dharam Tej’s character faced a UPSC interview panel. Incidentally, this week’s Konda Polam, opens with Sai Dharam Tej’s brother Vaishnav Tej, who plays Ravindra, attending a UPSC interview in Delhi. The interviewer, played by Nasser, seemingly impressed with Ravindra's articulation, asks him where he received his coaching from; the young man replies, “Forest.” The intrigued interviewer then asks him to tell his story, and this forms the crux of Konda Polam.
Starring: Vishnav Tej, Rakul Preet Singh, Sai Chand, Ravi Prakash, Kota Srinivas Rao
Directed by: Krish Jagarlamudi
The film has the tagline, ‘an epic tale of becoming’ and it is, indeed, a coming-of-age story. Ravindra is the only educated youngster in his village but a sense of burden lingers around him as he fails to procure a good salaried job. While he is not necessarily looked down upon by the people around him, he definitely feels pressurised. Vaishnav’s reticence aids in communicating this diffidence and guilt. However, in scenes where his character is expected to reflect his ‘becoming’, Vaishnav is barely expressive, and perhaps this is why the coming-of-age aspect of the film doesn’t really land with the necessary punch.
When a drought compels Ravindra’s father and other shepherds from their village to take their sheep to the forest for grazing, he accompanies them on a challenging hike. There’s a man-eating tiger, red sander smugglers who prey on innocent forest dwellers, thieves, and even the harsh natural conditions that act as obstacles. The screenplay follows the pattern of introducing a conflict, resolving it for the time being, and moving on to the next one. You expect these challenges to snowball into something bigger, but the film takes a much simpler approach in the climax, and most of these conflicts remain unresolved. Now, there are two ways to look at this choice: it’s either indicative of half-baked storytelling or the film cares more about the journey than the destination. Perhaps this is why Ravindra remains a mute observer for most of the first half absorbing the nature, and the knowledge imparted by his wise father played by Sai Chand, Obulamma (Rakul Preet Singh), and fellow village dwellers.
Konda Polam does have a few earnest moments and they do emanate from a good place. Take, the beautiful scene where Ravi Prakash’s character breaks down over the phone while explaining to his wife why he couldn’t spend time with her. Another heartwarming stretch in the second half has Ravindra’s ailing father jumping in joy when nature answers his plight in the form of rain. He picks up the mud and smears it over his face to express his happiness, and it’s a lovely moment where we witness the film’s intentions come together, and I wish there were more such moments. Similarly, when you see Ravindra’s elderly grandfather (Kota Srinivas Rao graces the screen after a long time), motivate him, the moment works beautifully. However, some of these moments do not generate the desired effect even if the filmmaker and actors genuinely try to sell them. Take, for instance, the scene where a character cries when one of his sheep is grievously injured; despite being well-intended, the scene does not work because the film hardly spends time to establish how much these animals mean to these humans.
Also, in a film where a tiger is labeled as the prime antagonist, even if it’s a metaphor for Ravindra’s inhibitions and fears, the visual effects should have been much better. These scenes are barely threatening even if the background music tries hard to instill fear. We recently saw this tiger metaphor trope in Vidya Balan's Sherni. It hardly showed the tigress, but the threat was palpable. Konda Polam, on the other hand, despite presenting us the wild animal multiple times, isn't half as effective as the Amit Masurkar directorial.
An adaptation of Sannapureddy Venkata Rami Reddy’s novel of the same name, Konda Polam largely benefits from the authenticity. Venkata Rami Reddy has also penned the dialogues for the film, which adds on to the authenticity of the narrative. Filmmaker Krish has admitted that he has incorporated a love story into the film and this is an angle I didn’t buy due to the sheer simplicity of the track. When gauged against the battles that surround these characters, the love story and the conflict feels a tad plain, although Rakul Preet essays the character with liveliness.
Konda Polam is a film that tries to be everything—a visually pleasing adventure, a warm coming-of-age story, a love story—but in the process, ends up not delving into any of the angles with the profundity they deserve.