'Malli Pelli' marks the return of the Vijaya Krishna Movies banner. Produced by VK Naresh, the film hit the cinemas today.
Senior actor Narendra (VK Naresh) is pushing 50. When he gets to work with a beautiful Kannada actress named Parvathi (Pavitra Lokesh), he is instantly magnetized. Even though he is a married man, he shows no inhibitions in wooing her. At home, his wife Soumya (Vanitha Vijaykumar) is the epitome of selfishness.
Parvathi cozies up to him, apparently because her relationship with her husband Phanindra (Adduri Ravi Varma) is broken. What then prevents them from parting ways with their respective spouses? The answer is found in the run-up to the climax.
Since VK Naresh and Pavitra are playing their real selves, it takes time for the performances to be viewed without a certain frame of mind. But, if you ignore all the televised and YouTube-created impressions surrounding the duo, you will embrace their performances as pretty restrained ones.
Vanitha Vijaykumar as a fuming and seething wife is natural. Sarath Babu (Late) as a thespian, Jaya Sudha as a character modelled after Vijaya Nirmala, Annapoornamma (playing herself), Ananya Nagalla (playing the younger version of Parvathi), Ravi Varma, Praveen Yandamuri and others are just there without leaving a lasting impression.
Director MS Raju may be old enough in age but he deserves a pat on the back for extracting songs that go against old-fashioned conceptions. Music director Suresh Bobbili's songs don't follow the typical template. The songs don't fall back on conventional genres. The background score by Aruldev is not low-brow either.
Director MS Raju took an unconventional approach to the tone of the film's trailer. Notably, in the trailer, the actors refrain from screaming even during intense moments, creating a certain mellow mood. Additionally, the conversations between Naresh and Pavitra carry a subdued tone. The question arises as to whether the film successfully maintains the same mood and atmosphere generated by the trailer. The answer is a qualified yes.
While the film refers to some real-life controversies (some of which are heavily leaned towards one or the other side), the film itself doesn't play to the gallery. Had the intention been to cheapen the mood or titillate the audience, director MS Raju would have picked RGV to write the lyrics (just kidding). However, the choice of Anantha Sriram as the lyricist speaks volumes about the director's intention to explore the sanctity of love, the torment of a marital crisis, self-redemption and love outside marriage.
Naresh behaves like an entitled star hero in one scene and a self-styled romantic in another. So far, so good. But the writing is deficient in making us feel his inner joy at finding a soulmate but not his inner churn at having to live with a toxic wife. It's Vanitha Vijaykumar's performance that brings out the manipulative and emotionally exploitative nature of her character. The script didn't have those details, one feels.
Even when a character emotionally blackmails someone by talking about a disorder, we don't feel that something intimate is being narrated. The run-up to the climax is riddled with plain narration.
The film tells a relationship drama that explores the interpersonal dynamics between two married couples and an unmarried couple in a situationship. The turbulent events in the second half needed to carry dramatic heft. The film needed to adopt a neutral tone before letting the audience buy into the Narendra-Parvathi story.