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Mallesham Pure Simple Biopic With A Heart Of Gold




Starring Priyadarshi Pullikonda, Ananya Nagalla

Directed by  R Raghuraj

Rating: ****(4 stars)

In the week when  the Telugu  neo-classic Arjun Reddy, one of the cockiest  most  obnoxious  screen  heroes   of all times, gets a  new avatar  in  Hindi cinema, another remarkable  Telugu film diametrically opposite to Arjun Reddy, quietly sneaks  into our hearts.

 Mallesham  the gentle  beautiful and  moving  story  of  Chitakindi Mallesham  , the  handloom weaver  fromAndhra who  revolutionized the weavers’  profession by inventing a mechanical loom–why,  because his mother’s  shoulder  threatened to collapse with all the manual weaving—is a testimony  of  truth and tenacity.There are many flaws  in the  narrative .Scenes  often lack a sense  of  flow and rhythm and  move with the awkward gait  of  the protagonist who, let me tell you, is played by a relatively  unknown actor  who owns  Mallesham’s part to an extent that he could easily exchange identities with the real Mallesham

The story of Mallesham’s determined  bid  to beat destiny is not  a  rarefied  experience.There is no room for subtle sighs  and  stifled  sobs in  the storytelling.  Not that  the characters are shown indulging in  exaggerated breastbeating. But the raw feel of  emotions that are unpolished gives off the feeling of the rough handloom texture in its  untreated form.

Oftentimes, the  fillm and  its anguished  plea for the betterment of  the lives of  handloom weavers in AndhraPradesh and Telangana  echoes Shyam Benegal’s 1987 film Susman which  featured the formidable Om Puri andShabana Azmi as weavers struggling to be their tradition alive. Here  in  Mallesham  , the protagonist and his  endearing wife(Ananya Nagalla) are shown struggling to  just stay alive.

Sensibly and wisely, director  R Raghuraj   has used  authentic  location. As I have already said, put  the actors in  real locations and more than  half the  job is done. The actors, barring Jhansi who  plays Mallesham’s mother and  who  is a little too glamorous in her starched  sarees,are so  utterly  credible  that one tends to forget that this is a fictionalized  version  of  a man so fiercely  dedicated to improving  the  lives of the  weavers that  he  forgets to live his own dreams.

There are  two  enormously insightful  premises  that propel this gentle drama  to a glorious hurrah.Firstly, the idea that all great  social  acts are born on a personal sometimes selfish note. Mallesham sets his eyes  on the mechanical  loom  because of his mother’s physical suffering. Secondly,   the idea  that every true  hero, unsung or  otherwise,  needs a support system of  family and friends who believe in him.

Standing tall  in this endeavour to bring alive a life that simply(and I do   mean simply)  had to be chronicled   is Priyadarshi  Pullikonda. So  selfeffacing and vanity-free is  his  performance  that we don’t see  the actor at all. We see only the  transparent  honesty and the uncompromised sincerity of the protagonist.

 Some  of  Mallesham’s madness and his  utter devotion to his  wife reminded me  of  Arunachalan Murugunantham, the ‘Padman’ in the  film of that title who  invented  the  economical sanitary  napkin because….well , his wife bled . Just as Mallesham’s mother suffered.Women indeed inspire in ways that the pseudo-feminists would never understand.

 Mallesham is  a film of tremendous virtue and honesty. At a time when biopics on gangsters and  other sociopaths are being made  this  film shows us who the  true  hero is.  Not the  guy who beats up  a dozen adversaries. But the guy who beats destiny.

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