: Set in a small town in Andhra Pradesh, the film revolves around a youngster, Mukunda, who challenges the domination of the Municipal Chairman and the rest of the story is about how he ends up inspiring everyone around him.
: Every once in a while there comes a film, which stands apart from the rest in terms of the subject it explores and the tone of narrative, although the nuances might not be blatant. You know it's different because it tries to break free from the template of an action comedy, a genre that has become synonymous with Telugu cinema these days. And more than anything, the setting of the story itself is a far cry from the modernism that Telugu filmmakers have got habituated to in recent few years. Sreekanth Addala's latest offering Mukunda is exactly that kind of film and much more. It's a film which is so aware of the milieu that it's exploring that you get sucked into the narrative to have a ringside look at the complex characters that inhabit the canvas the story unfolds on.
Varun Tej plays the eponymous Mukunda, who always comes to the rescue of his friend Arjun, who's in love with a girl from the town's Municipal Chairman's (played by Rao Ramesh) family. Their budding relationship doesn't go down well with the girl's family and Arjun always gets into trouble. One day, Mukunda is forced to lock horns with the Municipal Chairman and the rest of the story is about how Mukunda inspires everyone around him to challenge the latter's domination in the local politics.
Since the entire plot unfolds in the small town, Sreekanth Addala focuses on the ego clashes which in turn have dramatic consequences on the lives of the characters. For instance, right in the first few minutes into the film, we are told that Mukunda doesn't tolerate injustice around him and given how angry he can get, everyone around him thinks twice before messing with him or his friends. Varun Tej has a daunting screen presence and it is best witnessed in action sequences. As serious as his role demands him to be, it's tough to understand what's brewing in his mind because the actor seems too self-conscious of what he's going in the film. Then there's Rao Ramesh, who gives a knockout performance as a conniving and an arrogant politician. His dialogues are spectacularly written and the actor revels in the glory of what arguably is one of the most interesting filmi characters of 2014.
The film also has one of the best romantic sub-plots in a long time. While one may argue that there's no chemistry between Varun Tej and Pooja Hegde, Sreekanth Addala creates poignant moments every time they come together. How else can you describe this romantic track where neither of them says a word to each other and their entire love story is based on how long they can hold their gaze at each other? It's poetry in slow motion and the tenderness of their relationship is hard to ignore.
The film isn't without its share of flaws. There are a few subplots which are left unanswered and at times, the songs, which pop up on random occasions, hamper the mood of the film. The director is in complete command of the overall arc of story-telling, but it is tough to read the emotions that the film's lead character, Mukunda goes through in the process. At one point, when you get a bird's eye view on how the life of each of the principal characters has changed, it's still tough to empathise with Mukunda himself. Yet, all this becomes secondary before the conviction of Sreekanth Addala, who finds fascinating moments to capture from our daily lives. The simplicity of the story shrouds its multi-layered characters and only when you focus on the nuances of the characters that you will truly understand their motivations. Mickey J Meyer's music is top notch and so is Manikandan's cinematography and Sirivennela Seetaramasastry's lyrics.
There's a notion that films are more subjective than not and it couldn't more true in Mukunda's case. While there will be certain elements which may distract you from looking at the bigger picture, at the core of its heart, it's a well-constructed drama. In the end, the moral of the story is - Treat the film like an onion. The more you peel, the better it gets. All it needs is a little bit of patience.