If it weren't for the item number on and around the rail bridges over the Godavari at Rajahmundry right at the beginning, a fair sized chunk of the initial hour of Poramboku has the look and feel of an episode of Vyavasayadhaarula Karyakramam from the Maurya period of Telugu television that some of us are old enough to remember. With some elements of Seetharamaiahgaari Manavaraalu-type bucolic prosperity thrown in as seasoning.
All of which actually make the first half of Poramboku quite watchable. It seems like ages since a filmmaker took the trouble of shooting in "Tugoji" and "Pagoji" (as those districts are called in those parts), and the greenery and simplicity make the experience easy on the eye.
Karthik (Navdeep) is the village loafer in the appetizingly named mofussil town of Dosakayalapalli. He spends as much of his time as he can at film shoots, avoiding the constant scolding of his no-nonsense father (Dharmavarapu Subramanyam). Karthik's overarching ambition is to make it very big (as in ANR, NTR, Chiranjeevi size) in Tollywood.
There is a slight problem, of course. Namely, how is this young lad from Dosakayalapalli to worm his way into the starry heights of Telugu filmdom? He plans to enroll at a film institute and use that experience as a stepping stone. The institute charges an exorbitant fee that his father won't pay, and so he has to raise the money by hook or crook.
Enter Chaitra (Ekta Khosla). Chaitra, ostensibly a well-heeled city girl, visits the village checking out the sights and sounds of rural Andhra as research for a TV channel. Karthik and his equally poramboku friends decide to pull a fast one on her by "borrowing" a local zamindar's bungalow and renting it out to Chaitra for cash.
She settles into her village life comfortably (a little too comfortably if one goes by her outfits!), and soon become part and parcel of Karthik's life. However, all is not as it seems, as she is followed by specters from her past, personified by a bunch of thugs who show up in the village in search of her.
Karthik manages to scrounge together enough money to get on the train to Hyderabad, followed shortly by Chaitra. He knocks on several doors, and after many disappointments, finally manages to get on the threshold of a breakthrough that could propel him to stardom. Fate intervenes at this point, and he finds himself in a position where he has to choose between his cherished childhood dreams and the woman he loves.
Enough said about the story. The movie itself leaves you ambivalent. It has quite a few things going for it. There are several comedians (Ali, Brahmanandam, Raghubabu, M S Narayana etc.) who have bit parts, and it's genuinely funny at several moments - Karthik imitating Tollywood legends, Karthik trying to explain the history of the local temple to Chaitra, a take-off on Chandramukhi/Manichitrathazhu (which, though the umpteenth one, is still funny) etc. The music is better than ordinary, and while the acting won't fetch any awards, it has a certain unforced finish (especially Navdeep's) that is pleasing.
This not-over-the-top quality, not just of the acting but of everything else (locations, sets, music, action), is perhaps the undoing of Poramboku. The filmmakers try to remedy this somewhat in the second half, by means of detours to Phuket and Malaysia, but it's a case of too little too late.
Poramboku also doesn't have the capacity to take you up and down the emotional Himalayas that the big budget productions can, by virtue of their star and script-powered melodrama. Case in point - when a small-time rowdy misbehaves with Chaitra, all you feel is a sense of indignation and mild anger. When the rotten cop in Pokiri messed with the heroine's family, you literally wanted to reach into the screen and tear him from limb to limb. This one drops away as you leave the theater, and you're left untouched.
Traditionally, movies about movies and filmdom tend to not do too well at the box office. Poramboku appears like it will be consigned to the same fate.