I had never seen a movie starring Sai Pallavi, not until mom suggested we watch the 2021 Telugu movie ‘Love Story’ on the Indian streaming app ‘Aha’. Directed and written by Sekhar Kammula, this seemingly simple romantic tale at first glance, soon takes on themes of caste complications and ugly internal family tussles as the story progresses.

The film starts with Revanth (Naga Chaitanya), a simple boy from a poor family, who runs a small dance center in Hyderabad. His life changes when a new girl from his village moves into the building next to him. Sai Pallavi plays new girl Mounica, an engineer looking for a job in Hyderabad to escape her domineering rich family. Unfortunately, she is a complete dunce with terrible grades who is prone to panic attacks. So despite getting a cheat-sheet from a friend for a written test at a job interview, she fails to land the position. After a series of rejections and admonitions from everyone around her, a dejected Mounica breaks into an impromptu dance on Revanth’s terrace one morning, stunning onlookers. This scene was the high-point of the film, Sai Pallavi is a mesmerizing dancer, with such sharp/clean moves that it’s hard to believe she is not a trained classical dancer. Her movements are fluid, expressions joyous. It’s been a long time since I was captivated watching an actor dance on screen. Perhaps it’s her simple appearance that takes you by surprise, because she transforms into a swan (or a peacock like Revanth in the film call her) when she moves to the rhythm of music.

Love Story’s strength lies in its simple relatable characters and the earnest performances by lead actors. Mounica is an average girl, with sub-par grades, from a family that strongly believes in caste/class divide. Her character is written consistently, while Revanth on the other hand is an odd mix of gullible and practical. How these two fall in love and fight to be together is the bulk of the story, and a predictable sub-plot of abuse is also thrown in the mix. Three-fourths of the film is entertaining, filled with easy laughs, but the last 45 minutes feel drawn and overstretched. The climax is so abrupt that it feels like the editor was under pressure to wrap up the movie. It’s as if the makers suddenly realize the plot has gone on for too long and needs to end.

In-fact, a lot of things towards the climax feel ridiculous and contrived. For example, Mounica’s character books a hotel room near a bus-stop because she gets her period unexpectedly. There’s a big restaurant right next to the hotel, where she could’ve just gone into the restroom and done the same. As a woman who’s traveled enough in rural parts of the country, with friends who’ve traveled a LOT more, I know of nobody who’s booked an entire hotel room just to change and put a pad on. And given that Mounica’s character doesn’t even earn much, it seemed like a dumb thing to do. Or maybe it just falls in line with her dim wit. The scene is quite important in the movie, which is why I feel the need to complain about it a little, anyhow….

‘Love Story’ strikes a good balance between a mass entertainer and a film with a social message, so Sekhar Kammula has done a laudable job with this production. He should’ve tried cutting some earlier bits in movie, to give us a better climax, instead of the inconclusive rush job at the end. Watch the film for a riveting performance by Sai Pallavi.

It’s a 6.5/10 from me.

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