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    1. #1
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      Aravind Krishnan's Avatar
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      Default Skylab: Fascinating exploration of quirky characters in a village setting

      Venue: SonyLiv
      Credits: Wikipedia: Skylab (film) - Wikipedia

      This review contains minor spoilers.

      My experience with Telugu films has been quite mixed. I have never been able to digest their over-the-top treatment and love tracks but at the same time, their films' imagination and creative skills is second to none. Be it the Bahubali series or Awe which are among the few Telugu films I watched and liked. Coming to their entertainers, I did not like Pushpa, Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo and Janatha Garage as well with exception of Allu Arjun's brilliant performances in those films and Jr Ntr's and Lal's good/decent performances in the latter.

      Having said all this, Skylab is a rare, refreshing Telugu movie which matches the imagination and creativity of this industry with skillful writing, effective direction and solid performances. As a result, I found this film a far richer and superior experience to Minnal Murali which explores a similar setting and characters in the background but was not so effective in overall execution.

      Skylab sets itself in a village in the late 1970s where the primary focus is on 3 characters: Gowri (Nithya Menen), Dr Anand and Subedar Ramarao. These 3 characters have differing ambitions in their lives-Gowri wants to be a reputed, published writer. Dr Anand wants to make money from his profession by starting a clinic in the village and Subedar has to somehow repay his debts while being placed in an orthodox family background thus joins forces with the doctor. These 3 characters are part of a village that is rigorous in tradition yet lovable at heart. In the midst of all this is a professor who Gowri wants to utilise to fulfil her publication aspirations but he foils her numerous attempts, Dr Anand's father who wants nothing to do with his son and his granddad who adores Dr Anand but then understands his real intentions. At the interval point, the news filters through radio stations that the US-based Skylab satellite has failed and its debris will fall to the Earth's major countries including India. How the villagers react to this rare and scary phenomenon and how the 3 principal characters try to exploit the circumstances is what Skylab is all about. The soul of the film is in its last 30 minutes where each of the characters undergoes a realisation about their true nature and how the folks in the village who they felt were weird, are actually lovable human beings with their own stories. Thus this movie becomes more than just a quirky entertainer.

      What is fascinating about this film is that unlike any other, Skylab does not even take the slightest attempt to create a romance between the doctor and writer. They probably have 1 or 2 combination scenes and that too not direct scenes just with each other. In fact in a conventional sense you can say there is no hero and heroine. Through the film, writer-director Vishvak Khanderao is rather interested in the village's character exploration and development, which has been done so naturally and organically. The language, dialogues (Telengana dialect I believe which sounds similar to Malayalam?) is also important in elevating the experience.

      Coming to the performances, this is not really about one actor or character. I could relate to and feel moved by the majority of the characters on screen be it the drummer who announces the arrival of the satellite debris, the doctor's father and grandfather, Gowri's mom and dad, her assistant, and so on. Nonetheless, Nithya Menen is teriffic in a role she makes memorable through her expressions and behaviour. Her reaction to her assistant telling her potential stories while sitting in front of a photographer (Malayalee's DP) is just hilarious. Satyadev Kancharana as the doctor brought out the multiple shades of his character really well. I found the professor (Subbaraya Sharma) quite memorable as well.

      What Skylab does so well is the macro setting of the satellite falling but never without losing focus on the journeys of its principal characters. It does not forget of the human stories in the overall scope of things. Applause must be reserved for co-producer Nithya Menen who could so easily have picked up a powerful character being the sole recognised face (at least for non-Telugu audience) but settled for making her role part of a memorable ensemble cast. What is a quirky, funny entertainer in the first hour of its runtime slowly turns into an interesting experience about accepting those around you, even those who are so different to your outlook and background.

      I have not enjoyed and felt touched by a movie released on OTT this much in recent times. Never felt this movie as a debut work. Would recommend all to check it out at the earliest.

      Rating: 3.75/5
      Last edited by Aravind Krishnan; 25th January 2022 at 01:51 PM.

    2. #2
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      intexaqua's Avatar
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      Will check it out

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