What’s it about!
1980’s. In Palasa, Mohan Rao (Rakshit) and his elder brother Ranga Rao who belong to the scheduled caste lead life as folk singers. Caste discrimination and prevailing social structure force them to chose the path of violence. Mohan Rao works for Chinna Savukaru (Raghu Kunche) and Ranga Rao for Pedda Savukaru who use lower caste people as the stepping stone for their political growth. After the murder of Pedda Saavukaaru, the situation becomes worse. However, the brothers soon realize the feudalistic schemes don’t give chance to them to lead a peaceful life. There’s no turning back for them.
‘Palasa 1978’ is a period story of a young Dalit Mohan Rao, a victim of ruthless social hierarchy and upper-caste politics in the Palasa region of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh. The film chronicles the events in Mohan Rao’s life from the early 1980s to the present times. This is the first Telugu movie that stamped its Dalit theme and Ambedkarism throughout openly. It is the story of the Dalit awakening.
The story begins and follows much as Ram Charan and Sukumar’s blockbuster revenge drama ‘Rangasthalam’ – the period setting, story of two brothers, rural politics, and vengeance. The early portions of the movie don’t generate much interest as it treads in a typical commercial format.The movie’s real voice comes forth in the last twenty minutes. The soul of the movie lies in the penultimate sequences when a police inspector named Sebastian teaches Mohan Rao the importance of education, the thought and philosophy of Dr. BR Ambedkar. Mohan Rao gets transformed.
‘Palasa’ goes beyond the revenge saga with the climax sequence.
Towards the end of the movie, Mohan Rao utters, “Vinayakudi tala tegithe devudu vachi tala pettinappudu, ekalavya velu narukkunte ade devudu enduku raledo meeku arthamaiana roju marpu vastundi”.
This is also perhaps the first Telugu movie that has characters speaking in Srikakulam/Uttarandhra slang. However, the film also has shortcomings as well. It doesn’t provide high emotional points despite the theme of racism or untouchability. In fact, it runs on predictable lines.
Newcomer Rakshit has done a neat job. Thiru Veeru, the guy who played his elder brother’s role is very impressive. Raghu Kunche in the role of Chinna Saavukaru is a surprise. His acting and body language is superb. Other actors have also done an okay job.
The production design and camera work are decent. The dialogues are coarse but realistic. Swear words are used liberally. The background score needs a special mention. Karun Kumar’s direction is impressive at many places.
Bottom-line: ‘Palasa 1978’ is told in a raw manner with the setting of the 1980s and 90’s Uttarandhra region. It is an honest effort. On the surface, it seems like a revenge drama but the movie’s soul lies in its final sequences where the Ambedkarism is propagated. It may have limited appeal but the makers should be appreciated for representing the voice of the suppressed.
Reviewed by: Jalapathy Gudelli