Ek Mini Katha Movie Review: Small issues don't deter bigger laughs
This Santosh Shoban, Kavya Thapar-starrer’s efforts to conflate sex comedy and family drama yield mixed results but guarantee big laughs
Ek Mini Katha gives the impression of those dank memes we often come across on our social media timeline that invoke laughter regardless of their offensive nature. Straight out of the Ayushmann Khurrana-fronted sub-genre of ‘men combating manly problems’, this Karthik Rapolu directorial follows Santosh (Santosh Shoban), a vicenarian who is insecure about the size of his genital. Worried about his supposed sexual incompetence foiling his marriage life in the future, Santosh pursues a myriad of futile means—tablets, a device, the sacred leaves from the Himalayas, etc.—to grow the size of his organ. Although the various methods fail to enlarge his genitals, they, however, increase Santosh’s diffidence, rendering him perturbed. The protagonist’s propensity to perceive sexual prowess, or lack thereof, as the sole defining factor of a relationship is indicative of the film’s murky politics and negates its predictable climactic message. Wavering politics and indecisive reasoning are the weakest links of this otherwise quick-witted film.
Director: Karthik Rapolu
Cast: Santosh Shoban, Kavya Thapar, Brahmaji, Sudarshan, Sapthagiri, Shraddha Das,
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Telugu cinema has always played coy for any degree of abnormality in characters. Be it hearing impairment in Rangasthalam, transient global amnesia in Bhale Bhale Magadivoy, or muteness in Gaali Sampath, all of these conditions were played for laughs for the most part in the film, before milking emotion out of them in the climax. This conundrum furthers in Ek Mini Katha with Santosh’s insecurity being the butt of jokes. However, in the film's emotional climax, the writers, conveniently, slap a message about the importance of normalising intimate conversations pertaining to sex with children during their formative years. The message, thankfully, is not preachy, though.
Merlapaka Gandhi’s screenplay shoehorns scores of jokes on Santosh’s ‘smallness’ and spends its entire second half on palavering Santosh’s apprehension to indulge in intercourse, but not once does it cease to answer an elementary question like - has he never experienced arousal in life? Indubitably, this question might strike you as being overtly bold, but doesn’t a film that advocates normalising widely-forbidden discussions, owe you this much, especially when it’s exploiting the same conflict to evoke laughter? While it doesn’t vilify the issue or disregard its consequential emotional impact on the character, it certainly lacks the maturity of, say, something on the lines of Kalyana Samayal Saadham, a mellowed take on a similar point concerning the 'shortcomings' of a man.
The film inundates us with allusive humour and, for better or worse, most of the jokes land despite bearing questionable attributes. The comedy reminded me a lot of Chaavu Kaburu Challaga, one of the braver Telugu films to come out in the recent past, in which the wails of a grieving family that just lost a member are played out for laughs. Likewise, one of the funniest bits in Ek Mini Katha involves a depressed youngster with suicidal tendencies following a break-up. Similarly, Jabardasth Appa Rao as Barri Basavana taking jokes on his dark skin complexion in a cameo is a scream. Although I’m mindful that it is, indeed, wicked to laugh at the dead, the death of a character at a crucial juncture left me in splits. Ek Mini Katha runs the risk of getting canceled at every step, and I adored the writing for its unbridling comedy.
Most of the jokes are on Santosh’s self-doubt and the writing spews innuendos. Take the lyrics of ‘I Hate My Life-u’, for instance, where a full beer bottle and quarter bottle dichotomise the size Santosh covets versus his actual size. Santosh Shoban’s reticent performance entwined with the deadpan dialogue delivery brilliantly complements the smutty humour. Actor Sudarshan, too, finally lands a character that leverages him to the fullest. Watch out for his 'plumber' turn in a brothel. He's a scream in the film.
The film’s wilful attempt to dovetail two contrasting genres—sex comedy and a family drama—doesn’t see the fruition it aims for but it does confer a few characters worthy to be in the shtick. An elderly grandpa fixated with Pooja Hegde’s legs (a reference to the actor’s introduction scene in Ala Vaikuthapurramuloo) and Brahmaji, who plays Ram Mohan protagonist’s pejorative father, and Sapthagiri's Lorry Giri, Santosh’s long-lost cousin, add to the riot. Every time a contentious dialogue pops up, and mind it, there are many, a character alleviates the proceedings and reminds us that we are watching a film that doesn’t take itself seriously. For instance, take the psychiatrist played by Harshavardhan who impedes Ram Mohan from contemplating his childhood during a therapy session, politely citing his lack of patience to go back in time. Such writing choices to generate an extra laugh or two in every scene works to a large extent. When the film digresses from its madcap expanse and veers towards sentimentality it falls flat due to its sparse emotional core.
The women in the film, on the other hand, barely exist. Amrutha (Kavya Thapar) has no real personality barring a one-note character description which sits in glaring contrast to the protagonist. Nevertheless, what am I trying to parse? It’s a film where a character reveals that he has consummated his marriage in the back of a lorry and suggests the protagonist do the same. That should expound it. A conflict hitherto unexplored in Telugu cinema, Ek Mini Katha is a welcome move albeit with a few inherent issues.