Tholi Prema was a path-breaking movie for more reasons than one. First, it created a star in Telugu cinema, by the name of Pavan Kalyan. Though he had earlier hits to his name, it was only with Tholi Prema that he truly arrived as a star.
Apart from that, the movie changed the way Telugu movies are usually made. It brought the focus onto college youth - not bothering with social issues or anything, but just concentrating on the attitudes of college youth, and their way of life. Pavan Kalyan essays the role of a typical college student very well, and college students all over the state could identify with him.
Balu (Pavan Kalyan) is a typical college going guy, popular amongst his friends, good at cricket, but not at studies. He catches a glimpse of a girl (Keerthi Reddy) but she constantly eludes him, although he finds out that her name is Anu.
By cinematic co-incidence, he meets her on the way to Ooty. His car breaks down and she offers him a lift in her car. There is a major accident, and while trying to rescuing her, he falls into a ravine.
Soon, through frequent interaction, they become good friends. Though he is eager to express his love to Anu, his sister Priya (Vaasuki) advises him not to hurry. Balu realizes that Anu, who is serious about studies and her career, does not want to waste her time on "frivolous" things like love. So he decides not to reveal his love for her.
Then the story then goes on to show many incidents where Balu and Anu get to know each other. Finally, the day arrives when Anu has to leave India for further education. Even as she is about to leave, she recalls all the moments she spent with Balu, and realizes how much she loves him. She breaks down and confesses her love for him. He is elated, but reminds her that her career and education comes first and that they can always meet after achieving their respective goals.
The music of the movie was a big hit, in spite of the fact that a couple of songs were straight lifts from big hits. One song is a blatantly plagiarized version of Ricky Martin's Maria, while another is a modified version of Lucky Ali's Pyaar Ka Musafir. Apart from that, the music is a definite asset to the movie.
The direction by A Karunakaran is fresh and keeps the pace. There are no unnecessary twists in the story, and emotional scenes have been shot in a tender manner, without making them melodramatic. All in all, a good movie, which created a record of sorts with some young guys watching it as many as 25 to 30 times.