Director: Raj R
Cast: Priyadarshi, Ananya Nagella, Jhansi, Gangavva and others
Biopics have become increasingly popular among Telugu filmmakers over the past couple of years, and Mallesham happens to be the latest one to grace Tollywood. A story of Padmashree award winner Chintakindi Mallesham — who invented the Asu machine — the biopic, Raj R’s debut directorial, features Priyadarshi in the lead role.
A majority of the families living in Warangal, Nalgonda, and other parts of Telangana in the ’80s/’90s depended on weaving for their livelihood. Behind every pattu or silk sari went hours and hours of combined physical effort. Mallesham’s parents, too, were dependent on weaving for their income. His mother often reported experiencing excruciating pain in her right shoulder which was most likely a result of working with thread for hours on end. In light of his situation, Mallesham dropped out of school in the sixth grade to join his parents and ease the burden off their shoulders, and while he worked with them, it occurred to him to replace manpower with machine to weave threads into patterns. He kept failing in his pursuit but never stopped trying. He went to the extent of borrowing money to facilitate the fruition of his idea but to no avail — he was only sinking further into debt, which began to worry his parents all the more.
As an adherent son, he entered the wedlock when his parents thought he needed to settle down, however, that failed to terminate his pursuance. He sought information in books — he used an English dictionary to facilitate translation — and six years later, he had the Asu machine ready.
The film begins against the backdrop of rural Telangana in the 1980s where the members of a family whose livelihood depended on weaving end up committing suicide under the pressure of debt which they had not been able to repay. The director has also portrayed how middlemen would take advantage of villagers, the aftermath of which most weavers would have to suffer. After depicting in a fair amount of detail the lifestyle of the villager families in the ’80s, the director shifts focus to Mallesham and the various milestones of his life — growing up, his wedding, and the series of failures in his journey towards building the Asu Machine. After a point, Mallesham along with his wife moves to Hyderabad city, where he takes up various odd jobs to earn a living, with the Asu machine in mind.
Mallesham eventually nails his aspiration and puts together the Asu machine. The machine comes as a revolution — a saving grace to all families whose livelihoods depended on weaving. The film ends with a speech delivered by the real Mallesham.
The director indeed deserves a pat on the back for putting together a biopic on someone like Mallesham. However, a film needs some amount of emotion, drama, or gripping narration. Raj R’s biopic, unfortunately, is a sluggish narration of Mallesham’s life, and in its first half, misses its emotional aspect almost completely.
Priyadarshi, who commenced his acting career as a comedian in Pelli Choopulu, has certainly done justice to his role as Mallesham in the movie — perhaps his best performance so far. Ananya, who is seen as Mallesham’s wife in the film, has also done a commendable job in what she was assigned. The film’s highlight, however, is Jhansi, who has enacted Mallesham’s mother in what is unquestionably her best performance ever. Even the popular painter Lakshman Aelay has made a cameo appearance in the movie. The various actors in supporting roles have done a considerably good job. As far as the film’s music is concerned, Mark Robin has left no stone unturned to compose tunes that form coherent parallels with the sequence of events depicted in the movie.
Written by Peddinti Ashok Kumar, the dialogues are mostly rustic and have been delivered in the authentic Telangana accent — a potential comprehension barrier for anyone who doesn’t belong to rural Telangana, especially Andhra Pradesh. All in all, the film is a sincere effort by Raj R. to document the life of Mallesham and the weavers in Rural Telangana. Mallesham indeed has the potential to inspire — if only the film were decked with cinematic ingredients to truly move the audiences....