Koimoi Recommends C/O Kancharapalem: In small towns, even a burp grabs all the attention, and one such town is Kancharapalem, which’s walking towards globalisation at its own sweet pace. In this landscape, when a man falls in love with a prostitute, a Christian boy falls for a Hindu girl, a 49-year-old man is tying the knot with a 42-year widow, and a little boy falls for a girl from a strict family from his school, you can imagine the ripples it creates. Today on Koimoi Recommends, I want you to watch a film that has engraved itself on my soul. While melancholy haunts throughout, love wins in the end.
Director: Venkatesh Maha
Language: Telugu (With Subtitles)
Available On: Netflix
C/O Kancherapalem is set in a close-knit town where everybody knows everyone. Between people jogging every morning and discussing the world and neighbours at a tea stall, there are these 4 love stories that talks about religion, class, society and the fear of it.
Director Venkatesh Maha, who is also the writer, creates C/O Kancherapalem with all the love in his heart. But dare you to call it just another love story, instead, it is about finding the truest of the love in the most random places. Maha is not just telling you four love stories with this sweet poem but making you look at the backdrop they are set in front of. When 49-year-old Raju is made fun of for being unmarried, he doesn’t pay them heed. Rather he continues to do his job at the government office, where he meets his partner Radha, a widow with a 20-year-old daughter. Will the society they live in accept their union? Does it really matter?
Maha takes his own sweet time in setting up this universe and making people fall in love. Once you are introduced, you are as much a part of Kancharapalem as those people. When Gaddam, a guy working at a local liquor shop, falls for a girl looking just at her eyes, he doesn’t run away from her when he realises she is a prostitute. He proposes to her for marriage. And it is here where C/O Kancherapalem made its place in my heart. It isn’t a conventional drama with two slightly different humans meeting. The dynamics are drastic, but the humans involved make it look just normal because there is love.
The next couple in C/o Kancharapalem is Joseph, a converted Christian who falls for Bhargavi, a Brahmin. The two are made of the same soil but brought up different. When they meet, they gel and fall in love. But the ‘societal’ norms are at risk again. The same is with Sundaram, a kid on the verge of teenage who falls in love with Sunita, a girl from an upper-middle-class family. Sundaram, who believes in god, asks him for her, but does god listen? In the backdrop is his father, who is trying to rise above poverty and working very hard for it.
There is a prostitute, an inter-caste affair, a woman trying to remarry at 42 and a boy from the marginalised trying to impress a girl from the elite. Do you think ‘society’ looks at them with the same lens? And that is C/O Kancherapalem. Venkatesh Maha, while telling us soul steering love stories, makes a social commentary about class, religion, communal hatred, poverty and even the fear of the world.
While doing all of that, he makes sure the heartbeats at the right place. At the core of it, the film is about love and the purest of it. In his writing, he begins C/O Kancherapalem as a fairy tale and soon makes you realise that this is reality, and all that real humans face when they challenge the norm is applicable here too. But while painting his fairy tale, he makes sure his women aren’t damsels in distress; instead, they have a voice of their own, they know how to stand for themselves. It is refreshing to see Sundaram’s mother taking the financial decisions, whereas all other films set in a rural diaspora have stereotyped women a certain way.
There is too much to decode in C/O Kancherapalem; a piece of my heart now belongs to this Venkatesh Maha directorial. It amazes me that a man can look at women in a way not even any female filmmaker has. Love must be the undertone but the baggage it brings is what Maha highlights. Gaddam and Saleema (the liquor guy and his love) are the most heartbreaking of them all, but the bliss they bring with their union will stay with me forever.
Not many love stories have the power to engrave themselves on us forever. C/O Kancherapalem has. Regardless of the landscape you belong to or the language you speak or your taste in films, I want you to watch this film. For all the love I felt, I hope you at least feel half of it. And with this Maha directorial, even half of it is enough to move you.
PS: All the cast members in C/O Kancharapalem are non-actors and the majority are the villagers. Praveena Paruchuri, who plays Saleema (the prostitute), is originally a producer on the film who was later convinced to act. If you are impressed by Venkatesh Maha’s product, read about the making someday, the respect will be multiplied.
C/O Kancharapalem Star Rating: 5/5 Stars (Five Stars)