Off late I’ve been drawn to Telugu cinema with a renewed fervour, the same way I was to Malayalam a while ago— like a moth to bulb warmth — when younger movies with a hitherto unseen suspension of vanity and delectable finesse took over. I guess my dalliance with Telugu films got rekindled with Pelichoopulu that quickly turned into a reverential romance with Arjun Reddy, Rangashthalam, RX 100, Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi coming in regular bouts. The most heartening aspect of these films is that they felt international, despite being set local. The craftsmanship was gorgeous. The musical score though exquisite, was content to be ambient in the backdrop. The texture; the finish and the cinematic devices employed were often than not to further the cause of narration and imbue a certain poetic rhythm, than as a vapid exercise in indulgence and showboatery. Chi La Sow is the recent offering to swell this very exquisite list.
It starts in a fourth wall breaking sequence, with a little twist. The hero isn’t just talking to us, he’s talking with his alter ego as well, that vicariously seems to hurriedly be going through his emotions. Is a night enough to make a life altering decision? Does a person brew over time to become a soulmate or the first instincts can be acted upon? The movie addresses these questions with an organic nonchalance, hard to come by in this space. We have a twenty something protagonist who’s peeved by the constant matrimonial enquiries inundating him, to only find himself drawn to a woman who comes out of one such meet and greet. Fairly-cliched been there, seen that sort of a story one might think. But what sets it apart is the conversational manner in which we get to know the couple much like the Before movies. Like those movies, this one too focuses largely on these two over an unhurried evening of interactions, discoveries and tantrums. And their undistracted chemistry is so damn palpable, that it feels like a bulb might come alive between them.
You empathise with the guy, who goes from being tightly wound to an unabashed romantic in a fairly short span of time. His predispositions about matrimony peel off— layer by layer —as the girl goes from one anecdote to another rendering herself vulnerable before him. Masks come off. And like that the social protocol becomes personal for him. His antennas come on. For someone who was prepared to reject even a woman with movie star looks, he gets confronted instead with shortcomings of a real girl who threatens to become the love of his life. The girl for once comes across as a “telugu ammayi”, not picked out of a Ludhiana line up. She comes with her own emotional baggage, that sits on her chest like a giant toad. Even her smile which almost feels like a laborious afterthought is never quite wholehearted. It feels like a honed diplomatic courtesy, than a natural expression of glee. Loss and impermanence seem to have been a recurring motif. That’s probably why she starts playing hard to get,the moment she gets to know of his interest. This is her way of pinching herself hard. In a life where nothing’s come easy, she for once wants to be pursued,wooed and won over. She’s just not testing him, but this windfall benevolence in an otherwise unrewarding life.
It’s not often that you see insecurities— albeit not from a place of malice —brought alive onscreen to lend a quite dignity and allure to a woman; who we’ve gotten used to seeing as either a dumb hot chick, damsel in distress or a crossover between the two. At least in this part of the world, nine out of ten times. There’s this beautiful scene towards the end that depicts her state of mind, where he keeps knocking at her door to be let in, to only realise that it was never closed in the first place. If this is not poetry, few things are.