Koti (debutant Muralikrishna) and Suri (Samudra, the director of the film) are workers at a construction site in Hyderabad. One day, a new worker, Malli (Bhumika in the guise of a young boy), joins them - an adolescent-looking guy who doesn't talk and who is too weak to carry cement bags, but someone who brews a fine pot of tea. Malli is a girl on the run from something dangerous, as both the sides of the law are after her.
Who is she? What makes a delicate-looking girl like her come here looking for work amongst brick, sand, iron and cement, amongst the rough and tough, amongst men who leer at women and who pick fights at the drop of a hat? What is she running from? Someone loves her enough to get to all the answers and rescue her, even if he has to let go of his Dubai-dream and more in the process. It is a story interesting enough to keep you hooked, right till the end. Still, it's not fair to expect a good story to carry an entire film. Even with Bhumika to help it.
For the nit-picking, Mallepuvvu is not as tender a movie as the title-graphics suggest. And the tale is spoilt by many things. The dialogue is limp and the dubbing is even worse. There are glaring loopholes in the script â€" one of the main being how an educated girl ends up utterly helpless, given that she is seemingly bright and well-to-do.
Some action scenes, including the climax, remind you of plays you would have staged in school. There are far too many songs in the movie, but the music is only as good as what a tired Ilayaraja can dish out. Since it is The Man himself, you are not subjected to anything bad - it's just that the songs keep slowing the film's pace down.
As far as performances go, clearly it's a cast that has men for the action department and women for the acting department. Kovai Sarala as the mestramma is probably the only worker at the site who looks, walks and talks like one (it's a fake rural accent, but we will still buy it). Telangana Sakuntala, as a brothel owner, has her trademark powerful moments. (And yes, since there is a brothel in the film, expect a song for the front-benchers.)
Debutant Muralikrishna shows promise (though he looks like many leading men rolled into one â€" Srikanth and Raviteja being the leading contenders). There is a comedy track completely unrelated to the story, but it makes you laugh anyway because Venumadhav simply, delightfully, cannot do otherwise.
What will linger on your mind long after the movie ends however is Bhumika's fantastic portrayal of a girl caught in strange and chilling circumstances. Despair, loneliness, pain and confusion - she does 'em all. It's quite something for an actress to carry the film on her shoulders without resorting to hysterical performances or dialogues (she is silent for more than half the film) or even accentuating her curves (workman clothes don't do much for anyone's curves). But then again, that is quintessential Bhumika for you.
Mallepuvvu gets marks for trying, and it's definitely worth a watch.