Review: 'Pitta Kathalu' Is Wow and Meh in Equal Parts
The anthology is currently streaming on Netflix.
Review: 'Pitta Kathatlu' Is Wow and Meh in Equal Parts
Two months ago Netflix released the Tamil anthology Paava Kadhaigal, and, now, the streaming giant is back with Pitta Kathalu. The stories in this Telugu omnibus also follow a pattern, but they are not anywhere close to the gut-wrenching levels of its predecessor. There’s still tragedy here. Nevertheless, there’s no exhibition of blood and gore. Although there’s violence (domestic abuse, even), it doesn’t spill into the rooms of social issues.
I’m not hinting at the possibility of excluding harassment from the broader arena of social problems, but all the four films in Pitta Kathalu are concerned with individual grievances. While Paava Kadhaigal’s brushstrokes were broader and more homogenised, this one is kind of made as a hyper-local film that’s catered to a certain section of the audience.
The Telugu filmmakers wouldn’t have thought of these inter-mingling connections obviously, but the central theme (of making women call the shots) may have played a spoilsport, as the surprises dry up pretty quickly. Your appetite for devouring twists disappears after you’ve watched the first two short films, and that’s bad since there are two more in the list.
Netflix has a habit of opening anthologies with the best movies. It is, perhaps, easy to grab the eyeballs this way and when there’s Tharun Bhascker as the writer-director, they needn’t have to worry. Ramula is gorgeously fun, where the protagonists, Ram Chander (Naveen Kumar Bethiganti) and Ramula (Saanve Megghana), are TikTokers in a small town. Its grandness is folded in its simplicity.
When Chander books corner seats in the hope of enjoying some romantic time, Ramula chides him. And when he replies sarcastically, the scene jumps to them seated apart in the theatre. The movie runs completely on the power of their banter and you get a sense of their relationship within the first seven minutes itself. We have seen men and women spar over their needs and desires before, and Bhascker uses that technique to accommodate his characters’ fears and delusions. Apart from these two people, Ramula also brings in Swaroopa (Lakshmi Manchu), a politician who aspires to climb the ladder. And this is where it gets interesting actually.
These two parallel tracks are so wonderfully narrated that when you finally see them converging, you gasp. Bhascker builds up to the climax slowly by revealing what each character is made up of – Swaroopa is hungry for power, Ramula is lost in the sea of love, and Chander is a man-child with no goals in his life. Manchu gets a powerful role after a decade (after Anaganaga O Dheerudu) and makes the best of it. She should star in more movies and directors should vow to break the stereotypes associated with her on-screen personalities.
Meera starts off by turning the spotlight on Amala Paul’s character, named Meera. She plays a writer of fiction who’s constantly challenged by her husband, Vishwa (Jagapathi Babu). He’s clearly older than her and this leads him to think that she’s cheating on him. His insecurity isn’t just bottled up inside him, it’s scattered all over the place. He’s under the impression that she’ll leave him someday for a younger hunk. He’s grey-haired and she’s in the prime of her youth.
A better man would have been more careful with his words and behaviour. He would have also adored her and received an equal amount of affection in return. But that’s not the case here. It’s quite a sodden premise and Nandini Reddy, the director, takes the road often travelled and ticks all the clichés. The husband is a monster and the wife is caged in an unhappy marriage. It’s not unusual for such a story to take a drastic turn, but Reddy seems to miss the forest for the trees.
Babu yells and breaks glasses and slaps the people around him as though he’s possessed by a ghost. In these scenes, he’s terrific. After he started slipping into the skin of supporting roles, his career has reached greater heights, and Meera is yet another tailor-made film to showcase his versatility, but there’s nothing more to it. Of course, it’s shocking to see the tentacles of domestic violence, but the machinations would have probably worked better in a feature film.
In the eerily optimistic short segment Glitch, which is part of the Amazon Prime Video offering Unpaused, a man and a woman go on a virtual date. And in xLife, almost four billion people travel the world virtually and forget that they’re living beings. What makes it interesting and mawkish at the same time is the sci-fi element. Are we controlling technology and making it dance to our tunes, or are we listening to them and becoming their guinea pigs?
This is not a new debate and, with every form of advancement, we keep circling back to the same argument – we use technology to help us and not the other way around. We have come a long way from inventing wheels to making video calls, but how far can we keep going? xLife, on the surface, feels great as it discusses a single-minded idea, but it soon begins to beat about the bush.
Sanjith Hegde headlines the film as the boss of the numero uno tech company that alters the landscape of reality. With his shoulder-length hair and glasses, he achieves the perfect look of a geek, and his character, Vik, comes across as a greedy man, who makes gullible people buy things that they do not necessarily need. Shruti Haasan is a relief here, for she holds xLife together with her poise. However, there’s so much more that Nag Ashwin could have done, and, yet, he stops at the altar of mediocrity.
Pinky is a disappointment from the word go. Eesha Rebba, Satyadev, and Srinivas Avasarala star in a film that takes them nowhere. These are three actors who are willing to bring freshness to the table, as we have seen them in some really quirky dramas. Over the years, they have also experimented a lot with the characters they have portrayed. But the movie neither offers them the platform it promises, nor does it give the viewers an opportunity to digest the different strands of love.
Pinky seems to mimic a terribly made student film. It’s a miracle that it’s included in this anthology. Of course, Netflix doesn’t make blockbusters every week and that’s understandable. But this is an abomination.
Vivek (Satyadev) is a writer, whose novel gets rejected by his publisher, and Pinky (Eesha Rebba) is afraid that she can’t have the love of her life by her side. The narrative has room for melodrama, but director Sankalp Reddy, thankfully, doesn’t go there. He lets you swim in confused waters for a large part of the film, as he doesn’t name the relationship that Pinky and Vivek share.
While Ramula pulls you into Pitta Kathalu with its audacity, Pinky leaves you with a tear – not of solace, but of frustration.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.