Duration: 144 mins
Director: Karuna Kumar
Cast: Rakshit, Nakshatra, Raghu Kunche, Thiru Veer, Laxman, and others
Music: Raghu Kunche
In a country that runs highly on rhetoric and emotions, talking about issues like caste and oppression is something many would shy away from. However, director Karuna Kumar, who makes his debut with ‘Palasa 1978’, makes a hard-hitting drama that explores caste politics and discrimination without any inhibitions.
The film is set in 1978 in a town called Palasa in Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh. It narrates the journey of Mohan Rao (Rakshit) who belongs to a family of artists and hails from a backward community. After a few untoward incidents, he revolts against the supremacy of the landlords of his area with the help of his brother Ranga Rao (Thiru Veer). The rest of the film showcases the struggles and sacrifices he undergoes during this process.
We often hear complaints about Telugu filmmakers not making realistic films like ’Pariyerum Perumal’ and ‘Asuran’ which explicitly talks about caste discrimination and the politics related to it. In 'Palasa 1978', writer-director Karuna Kumar shines brilliantly for his authentic story. The Uttarandhra dialect becomes the backbone of the film which is wonderfully backed by some good performances.
There are certain moments where one is reminded of ‘Rangasthalam’. However, Karuna Kumar explores the discrimination and inequalities at a more deeper level. From BR Ambedkar's photo in the background to the protagonist reading ‘Antarani Vasantam’ in the end, he makes his intentions clear. His writing, especially the conversation between Mohan Rao and inspector Sebastian in the climax of the film, needs a special mention. They hit the right chords without being too preachy.
Rakshit does well as the protagonist and his earnest performance is praise-worthy. After making a mark with ‘George Reddy’, Thiru Veer as the elder brother is brilliant. He even outshines Rakshits in certain scenes in the first half of the film. Nakshatra, Laxman, Jagadeesh, and Prawin do justice to their roles. Besides composing peppy folk numbers and a good background score for the film, Raghu Kunche surprises you with his performance as the antagonist Guru Murthy.
Arul Vincent’s cinematography is decent. However, the editing could have been better, especially in the second half. On the flip side, the predictable elements in the second half, the gory violence and the expletives may not resonate with certain sections of the audience.
In the end, one can say that ‘Palasa’ is not a typical commercial entertainer but an intense drama which poses some uncomfortable questions.