Director Karuna Kumars Palasa 1978 (2020) is set in an undeveloped landscape, exploring caste politics with typically non-white and black characters. With the movie Sridevi Soda Center, the Karuna Kumar takes a fundamental approach in dealing with the slight presence of the actor Sudheer Babu and tries to keep the story within the discussion of honour matters.
The film is fully set in the Godavari belt, which Telugu cinema often finds beautiful qualities.
Karuna Kumar and cameraman Shamdat show us a holiday in a small town. Class and caste differences deepen and contrast with the Christmas lights instead of showing us the Godavari area with an airbrush. Sudheer Babu is a lighting expert for all village holidays. He, his father (Raghu Babu) and his friend (Satyam Rajesh) are proud of their work and refuse to obey Cassi (Pavel Navagitam).
The adrenaline-fueled boat races that take place in the sun-drenched waters mark the beginning of the next battle. Sudheer Babu shows his torn muscles in slow motion, and Mani Sharma’s eye-catching backdrop sets the mood.
Perhaps this is Karuna Kumar’s way of enticing those used to writing stories to stay invested in the process before moving through uncomfortable story spaces (Nagendra Cassi shares about the author of her writing).
The love story between Suri Babu and Sridevi (Anandi) develops rapidly. Since the primary opponent’s motives are predictable, the decisive reveal in the final round is not surprising.
Karuna Kumar reveals his cards in the third act during the story of the Good Man Vs. Evil Men Trope.
Suri may face the decidedly negative Cassie, but what does a father (V K Naresh) who is proud of his daughter’s fiery nature but not understand that he has the choice to choose the man he wants to live with?
“He may be a good person, but not ours,” he said, pointing to the caste division. A conversation between father and son. In which he claims he will keep his ideas about family and social honour. Even if the world changes. He emphasizes that he who has a life ahead of him will not be vulnerable to outdated ideas, including the best scenes in the film.
While this is a different story, I am subconsciously drawing parallels with the father-daughter confrontation in Uppena and the Or Iravu segment by director Vetrimaaran in Netflix’s Tamil anthology, Paava Kadhaigal.
Sridevi Soda Center has a lot to do with her – Sudheer Babu navigating segments of the crowd. Taking on the challenge of portraying the emotional turmoil of a man in a corner. Anandi is charming when needed and categorical in parts that require her to be more than just a pretty face. Raghu Babu and Satyam Rajesh are good at their job. Soda centres, dolls in the shade and occasional folk music emphasize the rural setting.
However, excessive bulk drainage pulls the film down.
Take, for example, the battle sequence between Sudheer and Ajay. Although the choreography is good, it doesn’t affect the story. Likewise, with some songs that add to the duration of the film (154 minutes).
Sridevi Soda Center is the kind of film that emerges when arthouse and mainstream collide in the middle, but it’s not without its problems. There are some unforgettable moments and complex parts, but this film doesn’t blow you away.
The story (no spoilers here) takes a sad turn, as is often the case in real life these days, and the ending is far from happy. The rough and rustic scene before the climax makes you angry, and the climax is full of emotion. Background music by Mani Sharma and the song Manduloda boom.
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Sudheer Babu, who played everything from the boy next to the cops, left his comfort zone to take most scenes here. While she gets the chance to show off her six-pack, she also shows that she can show off. Anandi blends in well with the character’s skin and delivers a commendable performance. Naresh deserves credit for his impeccable act, even if it’s no longer surprising. The other actors played their roles well.
Sridevi’s Soda Center has a strong storyline. And while Karuna Kumar spends her sweet time exploring things. The wait is well worth the wait. The story may test your patience, but it’s not every day a director deals with caste differences as intensely.