Palasa 1978 is one of those films promoted as obe of the pride of Telugu cinema. Dominated by new casting and fresh technicians, let us see what is this all about?
Set in 1978 backdrop around Ambusoli village near Palasa where social inequalities are witnessed more with rich and upper castes suppressing the poor and downtrodden ruthlessly, there arises a revolt led by brothers Mohan Rao (Rakshit) and Ranga Rao against Pedda Shavkar, his son Tarakeshu and Chinna Shavkar Guru Murthy (Raghu Kunche). What begins on a revenge formula story takes a complete new turn with entry of local SI Sebastian.
Palasa is compelling in one aspect that director, writer Karuna Kumar did not hesitate in penning the hard hittind lines targeted at upper classes. While the moot question on existence of social inequalities even in this era of globalization might be worth a debate, Karuna Kumar strictly followed on what he believed that upper classes are still suppressing lower ones, a phenomena that did not change from centuries. In that case, his clarity of thought, in depth analysis of subject and ability in converting the pain into a storyline will win the applause. As a film, Palasa has good number of drawbacks which makes it only a cult flick and not the commercial one. Screenplay played a spoil game because after establishing the entire setup, running of scenes wasn't exciting enough despite sympathizing with every character. Writer in Karuna Kumar overshadowed the director and screen writer in him. Same like Rangasthalam, audience can easily guess what's next. Onto direction, Karuna Kumar stuck to the way of realistic and raw presentation portraying Palasa and Srikakulam culture, tradition very effectively. May it be the folklore, dialect and nature of people in this area, sure Palasa strikes right chords with the natives. Camera work by Arul Vincent is top notch, maintained the required mood just like Raghu Kunche's satisfactory background score. Art department did a fine job. Production values from Tammareddy are intact for a film of this kind.
Onto artists, Rakshit is not a complete hero material. So he was apt in top lead as Mohan Rao. Emotional scenes, he was fabulous and last portions, he mouthed some really powerful lines. Nakshatra looked good. Among others, Raghu Kunche and the artist who did Pedda Shavkar were fabulous. Rest bore strong resemblances with Srikakulam localities.
Mid Second Half
Slow Narrative At Times
Every director and writer will live in his imaginary world surrounded with inspirations, persons and situations that propel them to drive the basic plot. Karuna Kumar seems to have studied enough of our society divided on different lines, one being rich-poor and the other upper-lower castes. Apparently, the fire in Karuna came out on screen with thought provoking lines and graceful contexts questioning everyone. At the same time, he did not leave the problem alone on our face. The solution provided in climax makes Karuna different from regular commercial directors. He was preachy at times yet when patrons connect with the characters designed, even these sermons sense meaningful.
First half begins with Rakshit aka Mohan Rao killing Ganapa Vasu to begin the flashback from a Head Constable's view point narrating the story of Palasa and Mohan Rao from 1978. Social discrepancies and circumstances that evoke rebellious attitude in Mohan Rao, Ranga Rao are more elevated by superb performances from Pedda Shavkar and Raghu Kunche. It was fully bold. Entry of Bhairagi should have bought hero elevation but didn't work out, went pale. Division between Mohan Rao, Ranga Rao with divide and rule policy of Shavkars had space for commercial interval bang.
Second half, momentum falls down with death of Pedda Shavkar. Helplessness of Tarakeshu and growth of Guru Murthy aren't cinematic. Then its time for Guru Murthy and Tarakeshu joining hands with Ganapa Vasu, son of Bhairagi. Till this point, Palasa is non commercialized version of Rangasthalam. Hereon, last 30 minutes or so, Sebastian character becomes a torch bearer to run the show on new lines backed by Mohan Rao. Is education alone the answer to eradicate the social inequalities, yes and no. These inequalities are so deep rooted that even a character like Sebastian encourages violence route to pave way for a new beginning.
In total, Palasa is not a regular commercial flick. Its differently hard hitting with a non-contemporary issue. Karuna Kumar and his team's honest approach makes the film worth a 2.75 star rating. Watch it, if you have Abhyudaya Bhavalu within your blood. BO wise, a safe bet for producers.