Story: Basthi Balaraju (Kartikeya Gummakonda) falls for a young widow called Mallika (Lavanya Tripathi) even as he transports her husband’s body to the grave. With everyone telling him he’s wrong to woo her, how does he manage to win her over?
Review: Debutant director Koushik Pegallapati has big dreams in his eyes – he wants to break stereotypes, yet employ every trope of commercial cinema at the same time. Chaavu Kaburu Challaga is an infuriating mishmash that makes you gasp with surprise and sigh with exasperation every few minutes in its 2-hours-17-minutes long runtime. The intention is an honourable one – to reason that women are allowed to lead a happy life irrespective of their circumstances.
Hearse driver Basthi Balaraju (Kartikeya) has seen too much death in a short span of time – so much so that he doesn’t believe there’s something monumental in one’s passing. He does something a ‘hero’ is not expected to do – fall in love with the young widow Mallika (Lavanya Tripathi) even as he carries her husband’s dead body to the grave. But what he does next is what any ‘hero’ in commercial cinema would do – stalk and harass her despite her apparent disgust and even police involvement. Because love can face any hurdle. Mallika reasons that she values life because she works at the maternity ward and sees the beauty in it every day while he sees the reality in death. There is philosophy in this film that lies deep within all the drama.
There’s also the matter of Balaraju’s mom (Aamani) who is anything but a typical mom. Even as she chides her son for his antics, looks after her bedridden husband and earns for the family, she’s tired of loneliness and finds solace in a bottle of whisky every day and innocent companionship with someone else. Mallika’s in-laws are also anything but typical. Her father-in-law (Murli Sharma) does not want her to lead a lonely life, he hopes she finds her lost smile someday (as long as it’s with a man of his choosing).
While all these plot-points sound noble on paper and are even justified with lengthy dialogues, Koushik seems confused as to what he wants his audience to laugh at or take seriously. On one hand Balaraju stalking Mallika is passed off as romance, sometimes even comedy and on the other hand the consequences of him doing so are supposed to be taken to heart. Even as Kartikeya’s character finds no issue in constantly harassing a heartbroken, grieving widow who clearly wants nothing to do with him, he rages at the thought of his mom having a consensual relationship with someone else.
What also doesn’t work is that the women of the film are hardly given any agency when it comes down to it; they’re only ‘allowed’ to seek happiness with the blessings of the men in their lives. The comedy too doesn’t always land. The film does get past all these issues by showing growth and understanding in characters – but the film fails to find a footing and keep the audience engaged all through. It also veers a thin line between being edgy (there’s a special number by Anasuya Bharadwaj….in a graveyard) and falling prey to tried and tested tropes.
Kartikeya delivers a stellar performance as Basthi Balaraju – a man whose intentions are right and is unapologetic about his actions. His accent lends gravitas to the character. Lavanya Tripathi is tuned a shade darker for the role and while her makeup looks inconsistent and patchy, she delivers and makes one empathise with her character. Aamani, Murli Sharma, Srikanth Iyengar and rest of the cast too do well with what they’re given. Jakes Bejoy’s music has nothing much to write home about, with the music rarely making a mark. Karm Chawla does a good job with the cinematography and Satya G with the editing.
Chaavu Kaburu Challaga dares to go where few films would – show that a woman’s life does not have to end, begin and revolve around her family. If only the film was surefooted enough to deliver that message.
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