Balagam Review: Venu Yeldandi’s directorial debut with Priyadarshi Pulikonda is a rustic drama based on death and familial bonds tinged with humour

Film: Balagam

Cast: Priyadarshi Pulikonda, Kavya Kalyanram, Sudhakar Reddy, Muralidhar Goud, Jayaram, Racha Ravi, Rohini Noni, Sujatha, Vijaya Lakshmi, Mime Madhu, Surabhi Lalitha, Venu Yeldandi, Krishna Teja

Director: Venu Yeldandi

OTT: Prime Video

Rating: 3 Moons

Telugu film Balagam, did wonders at the box office when it was released last month. Now, the film is ready to premiere on Prime Video streamer. The film is based in a village in Telangana, where a family head Komarayya (Sudhakar Reddy), who is hale and hearty and works in his farm, passes away unexpectedly. He has three children- two sons, Aillaya (Jayaram), Mogilayya and a daughter, Lakshmi (Roopa). His grandson (the son of his eldest son) Sailu (Priyadarshi Pulikonda), is in debt and believes that getting married and receiving dowry money will help him pay it off. However, his engagement is put on hold due to Komarayya’s sudden demise.

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Komarayya’s younger son, who currently resides in Surat, and his daughter, who stopped visiting the family years ago due to a minor issue also come down for the funeral. However, the family’s pindam (riceball/pinda) ritual which is offered on the third day after a death brings fresh problems for the family which has come together after ages and has skeletons tumbling out of closets. During the pinda daan ritual, attended by the whole village, the crows refrain from eating the pinda daan offering of rice signifying that the old man’s soul is unsatisfied with something, thereby bringing fresh problem for the family as they need to sort out their differences to free the departed soul.

Balagam brilliantly encapsulates the nuances of a typical Telangana village with its language, art, culture, rituals, lifestyle and beliefs. The film narrates a simple yet poignantly powerful story with honesty and sincerity. Well-known comedian Venu Yeldandi turns writer-director with the film and hits the bull’s eye with it. The film is not driven so much by the actors and actresses but by the characters that they play in the film. Every character in the film is relatable and has their distinct appeal. It takes the similar route of other Hindi films like Pagglait, Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi etc, but for Telugu cinema its new territory. 

Priyadarshi Pulikonda, known for his comic timing and character roles, plays a pivotal role in the film as Sailu. Kavya Kalyanram is also impactful with her girl-next-door vibes. The other cast members including Sudhakar Reddy, Muralidhar Goud, Jayaram, Racha Ravi, Rohini Noni, Sujatha, Vijaya Lakshmi, Mime Madhu, Surabhi Lalitha, Venu, Krishna Teja and others do a commendable job to drive the narrative of the film. The film’s technical team also deserves a special mention. Bheems Ceciroleo’s music gives the film its rustic and folk soul while Acharya Venu’s cinematography brings out the beauty of rural life with hills, lush green fields and coconut and palm trees.

Balagam successfully entwines family politics, death, rituals and humour into his story. It also brings to fore the way women bear the brunt of men dictating the rules of their lives when it comes to engagement and marriage. Venu Yeldandi deserves applause for his debut directorial. However, it is not your regular commercial potboiler and becomes a bit tedious in between, but if you connect to the simple, rustic vibe, it will touch a chord. It is a simple honest drama that brings out the essence of familial bonds and what happens to a family when the tie that binds breaks. gives Balagam, 3 Moons.