The title might hint at something else, but Moguds Pellams is squeaky clean of the cheap, the vulgar and the lurid. The film is a subdued, sparkling comedy of over 2½ hours – no thigh-slapping guffaws to be expected here, just a couple of shrieks slipping out at the especially funny scenes. It's almost a family movie actually, when you apply the standards of Tollywood.
Srinivas (Sivaji Raja) is a character who looks and acts a lot like Elmer Fudd, especially when he is in a bout of self-pity. Along with Padma (Rathi), he plays the central role in this plot that is as old as the person who probably wrote it, or at least as old as Missamma, the classic starring NTR, ANR and SVR. Both of them land up in Hyderabad, and after a series of Jandhyala-Productions type of mellow, newspaper-comic-strip jokes, they land up jobs in the same office.
As they are looking out for houses, they are faced with a unanimous demand by all houseowners that their paying-guests be married couples. So, after much ado, Padma reluctantly agrees to play Srinivas's wife, technically laying the ground for another hackneyed situational comedy. But the beauty of the original film starring this script is so unrelenting in its appeal across time, that you are all eager to look at just the positives.
Funny things do happen. Padma, who often flicks her head sideways saying, "Nenu mamulu aada daanni kaanu" like she wears a jockstrap under her sari, chains Srinivas's feet to the window everynight in an attempt to protect herself. Then she takes to wearing Jeans as her chastity belt so she will be "safe". And when her relatives come over, she bundles him into a gunny-sack and dumps him onto a road like a bag of potatoes gone bad.
All through this, Srinivas goes fuddier and duddier with his protectiveness and chivalry towards the shrew in the guise of a nymphet. When it's her turn to leave the house because Srinivas's relatives are over, he follows her and keeps watch on her all night as she sleeps in a temple. His unarticulated attraction for her takes the form of him debasing himself and grovelling to her, until the day comes when Padma's heart finally melts. She suggests friendship, he accepts gratefully, and soon enough they start toiling away towards a romance.
Sivaji doesn't have to do much except lower his spectacles and pout his mouth to incite laughs. His brand of humor is the cleaner one, centred around confusion and self-pity, as opposed to the raucous kind that centers at shock and appallment. Rathi does a good job in playing the hard-headed ogress who evokes the confusion in him. Ali helps the game by playing the thief who keeps pinching little bits of luggage, along with which he manages to pinch a little screen space as well. He can't keep you from missing Relangi, though, who played a beggar in the original (asking for "Dharmam please" and, of course, "Thailam").
More than anything, Moguds Pellams reminds you of a show of Looney Tunes. Gentle, delicate humor that goes on and on, unchanging. Even if you mute the sound or switch off the TV and come back. That said, it is not a really rocking movie that will leave any impression on you. Which means, it is most logically best left to a TV screening. Skip it and wait, or watch it once to kill time.