Panchatantram Anthology Review: An emotional roller-coaster 
Panchatantram Anthology Review: An emotional roller-coaster 

Panchatantram Anthology Review: An emotional roller-coaster 

A tastefully made anthology elevated by its performances 
Rating:(3 / 5)

The movie-watching experience has evolved post the pandemic and so has the content. Several young filmmakers are keen to tell a variety of stories in a single film and that way, anthologies have become the go-to type of filmmaking these days.

The audience, too, is welcoming the trend of watching how these short stories unfold, in different genres featuring an ensemble of stars together.

Panchatantram, directed by debutant Harsha Pulipaka, is one such film that narrates five short stories pivoting around the five senses -- vision, taste, smell, touch, and hearing.

Cast: Brahmanandam, Swathi Reddy, Shivatmika Rajasekhar, Samuthirakani, Naresh Agastya, Uttej, Divya Sripada, Vikas Muppala
Director: Harsha Pulipaka

The film works well when its ensemble cast, headed by the likes of Brahmanandam, Swathi Reddy, Uttej, Aadarsh Balakrishna, Divya Sripada, Vikas Muppala, Shivatmika Rajasekhar, Naresh Agastya and Samuthirakani among others, rises to the occasion, expressing emotions and the frustrations of their characters on screen.

Vedavyas (Brahmanandam), a retired All India Radio employee, wants to pursue his passion as a storyteller and participates in a storytelling contest. He faces resistance from his daughter Roshini (Swathi Reddy), but still manages to attend the competition as he believes that life can begin at 60. The father-daughter drama plays the perfect chords of human emotions.

The first story is about a burned-out software employee, Gagan Vihari (Naresh Agastya), who struggles to find a work-life balance. His strength of 'working under pressure gives him the bitterest experiences in the workplace. Even a game of cricket with his friends flares up his temper and makes him restless. A quaint beach on a postcard excites him and his wish to visit the place gets fulfilled with the help of his colleague Mythri (Srividya Maharshi). Vihari not only gets a visual treat but also finds serenity by the shore.

The second story in Panchatantram showcases how taste and the concept of love can become intertwined. Subash (Rahul Vijay) is tired of meeting girls who don't have a perception about marriage and is in search of a woman who understands it better. A meeting with Lekha (Shivatmika Rajasekhar), a free-spirited and practical woman, dispels all his delusions about marriage and also convinces him that a relationship built on mutual respect, acceptance, and compromise is an effective way to lead a happy life. Their conversation is also woven with a childhood memory, two glasses of badam milk, a honey cake, and an unplanned road trip.

The third short of the film is perhaps the trickier of the lot, at least on paper. It dwells on the strange science of odour memory and depicts the story of a retired employee Ramanatham (Samuthirakani), who feels unsettled due to a whiff of a 'strange' smell. In the process, he begins to diffuse a startling tension and goes about keeping his house clean. The short also makes you empathize with this old man and keeps you guessing about the end.

In the fourth short, Sekhar (Vikas Muppala)'s life turns upside down when he finds out that his pregnant wife Devi (Divya Sripada) is battling a terminal disease. A worker at a printing press, Sekhar couldn't afford expensive medical treatment for his wife and a kick of the baby is only their ray of hope.

The fifth story in Panchatantram is the most captivating drama that makes the viewers confront a spectrum of emotions. Chitra (Swathi Reddy), a storyteller and entrepreneur, narrates an audio series about Leia, a female superhero, who instantly becomes a favourite to a girl named Roopa (Praanya P Rao). Chitra and her partner (Aadarsh Balakrishna) were forced to pull the plug due to viewers' slump and it was then they meet Shambiah (Uttej), the father of Roopa, who gives them a drawing of Leia. What lifts the story is Chitra’s meeting with Roopa, which, in a way, saves the series from cancellation.

Panchatantram is distinct in look and flavour, but lacks the wow factor. It is heart-warming, hopeful, and even funny at times. And it is ironic that the first two shorts which end on a happy note are actually the ones that feel a bit underwhelming. Maybe because we may not come across such people in our lives.

Prashanth Vihari and Shravan Bharadwaj’s music complements the narrative well, while BH Garry’s editing could have been better.

Overall, even though Panchatantram starts off on a sluggish note, it does strike a chord towards the end. Its slow pace, at times, leads to boredom, but the stories do make it a one-time watch.

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