Okay, maybe we were wrong. Not more than a month back, this reviewer was talking to a young and talented short filmmaker who was handed the proverbial biscuit by a producer who promised to produce his script and later went incommunicado. Having read that dreamy script, this reviewer told the poor chap, "Idi Telugulo avvadu. Hindiko, Tamilko velthe manchidi." It is with complete conviction and concern that we asserted that these new-age scripts just don't get made in Telugu.
And, apparently, that's what Kajal Aggarwal told Prasanth Varma, the director of Awe!. But the chappie, apparently, insisted that it'll be made in Telugu, and today we saw it materialize and unfold right in front of us. So, yeah, we were wrong. These films are getting made in Telugu and it's all tremendously exciting.
Awe! is a melting pot of over a dozen characters all of whom seem to have little to do with each other but nevertheless converge to a single focal point by the end. And that's about as much as we can say about the plot because practically everything is a surprise and we'd be giving away terrible spoilers if we even discussed any plot point of the movie.
So, instead of describing the plot, we'll do this strange exercise - we'll give you a meta-description of the plot by stringing together a bunch of Awe!-related keywords in alphabetical order, thereby not letting on to the significance of one keyword over another.
Here goes - abuse, alligator, bonsai, brain, chocolate, cocaine, commode, cow, depression, diary, dreadlocks, fine-dining, fish, gun, homosexual, injection, Iron Maiden, Kali, kid, Krishna, locket, magic, mental health, Mira, mojito, murder, Nalabhima, orphan, Paneer, parents, power, psychiatry, Radha, robbery, Rubik's cube, scream, sea, sex-change, Shiva, south-indian coffee, spirit, Sugar, suicide, sweeper, tattoos, time, vegetarian, wheelchair.
(Unintended humour - it's superbly tickling to read those keywords in pairs. Our favourite is homosexual injection.)
Prasanth Varma succeeds in bundling up all these seemingly arbitrary plot points into one film and not having you feel bamboozled at the end of it all. And the guy has a talent for detail which gets him some fascinating cuts (editing by Goutham Nerusu), captivating frames (photography by Karthik Ghattamaneni) and stupendous score (Mark Robin). Just the looks of its myriad characters are worked on with so much love and care (Regina, in particular, is simply transformed). There is absolutely no denying that Awe! is, technically, a great film.
But we can interpret that last line differently. When we evaluate the film in terms of the more classical concerns such as does it make you care for its characters, does it tell its story emotionally, and - that all too important Indian concern - does it entertain, we aren't entirely sure. Awe!, as we saw it, may only technically be a great film.
Of the multiple segments in the film, only two really make you care. One of them (that of Eesha Rebba) greatly benefits from Rohini's natural performance as a mouna-vratham keeping mum, and the other (that of Priyadarshi) is hugely entertaining thanks to the (voice-acting) talents of Nani and Ravi Teja.
Don't get us wrong, it isn't like the other segments bore you or anything. There's certainly much to keep you occupied, but it isn't what happens to the characters that we are interested in. It's these other things like the sketches that they begin and end with, the costumes the characters wear, the colour palette distinction and so on. It's a rich film and keeps on giving, but that isn't the same thing as telling a story that will make the viewer reminisce.
It's also a rich film in that it's about and for the rich. It's about people who visit fancy cafés where they order blueberry mojitos. It's about café waitresses who somehow have fashionable tanktops, overalls, dreadlocks, tattoos, and so much access to cocaine. It's about little girls who ask for charity for cow protection because "Indian cow breeds extinct avuthunnai" (made us wonder if there's a charity for the extinction of Telugu). And it's not for people who don't understand English.
All of that wouldn't have mattered very much if the people were dealt with more involvement. Like in Arjun Reddy
, where it's evident that the protagonist is a self-obsessed rich brat but is also dealt with through rather sincere character development. The trouble with Awe! is its numerous characters get inversely-proportionally small screentimes, and fail to ground themselves into your Random Access Memory. And it doesn't help at all that all that richness and polish make them feel alien and unfamiliar.
But the big feat is it doesn't collapse like a house of cards. It isn't one of those cases where ambition fails to meet execution. Awe! stands tall as perhaps the most unusual writing/directing exercise in Telugu cinema. But you're less likely to be in awe with the film than with the fact that it got made at all.