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Popcorn Movie Review: A decent premise let down by lacklustre writing- Cinema express

Popcorn Movie Review: A decent premise let down by lacklustre writing


Avika and Sai Ronak fail to elicit any interest in this barely persuasive story with dated treatment

Published: 10th February 2023

Popcorn is a mishmash of different genres, which makes it sound so interesting on paper. Ninety percent of the film’s run time is dedicated to two characters stuck in a lift for almost a day, which qualifies Popcorn to be a chamber film, a beloved mode of storytelling in the world of short films. Sameerana (Avika Gor), the film’s female lead, has asthma and does not have an inhaler with her when she is on the lift for hours on end, so Popcorn also fits nicely in the survival film space a la Mathukutty Xavier’s Helen (2019) or Vikramaditya Motwane’s Trapped (2016). And lastly, Popcorn is also a romantic comedy that has its characters talking through the entirety of the film. I was reminded of the first half of Tharun Bhascker’s Pelli Choopulu (2016) and the iconic lift scene from Pokiri (2006), where Mahesh Babu and Ileana get to know each other better in the time they get stuck together. These comparisons, sadly go on to show the promise this film probably held in its natal stages, only to fall apart in the process of bringing it alive on the big screen.

Director: Murali Gandham
Cast: Avika Gor, Sai Ronak, Charuhasan

Popcorn is set around Sameerana and Pavan (Sai Ronak) who get stuck in the lift of a shopping mall. A bomb blast happens earlier in the day, and while they don’t register its impact to realise what happened, there is some exposition to detail them coming to grips with the situation. With the assumption that all civilians have been cleared out of the premises, the police officers and mall security leave, abandoning these two. Sameerana and Pavan start off on a wrong note even before they enter the mall. An interaction that happens early on in the film, where Pavan wrongly assumes that Sameerana insulted his blind grandfather (Charuhasan), sets off the chain of events, making Pavan ambush Sameera in a lift and slap her with zero preamble. The slap scene is sadly, the first of many such scenes, which make you wonder whether you are in 2023 or 2005. While the scene where Pavan hands Sameerana his grandfather’s adult diapers was dealt sensitively, and with maturity, the interval cliffhanger or the constant references to Sunny Leone (there is a hoarding for manforce condoms on the lift), come off as gratuitous and tacky. 

We are never provided with an explanation behind why the bomb blast takes place. All we get to see is a cleaning lady moving around a penguin-shaped trash can with an explosive hidden in it.  Were fundamentalists involved? Was this blast done for insurance money? Was there a personal agenda afoot? These are questions we never get the answers for. There is also a lingering doubt I had about why the film was titled Popcorn. Sure, the snack makes an appearance but that does little to provide any reasoning. This film could have probably benefited from the tension a bomb blast subplot could provide. The need for conflict and urgency to liven up the film’s proceedings is also felt deeply because the leads, though earnest and capable, are given such insipid, blasé dialogue and there is only so much one can do with it.  If most Telugu films need dialogues to thrive, this film needs dialogues to survive and Popcorn, much like Sameerana in the last 20 minutes of the film, is gasping for air. There are a few decent touches, such as the one where Pavan tries to help Sameerana with her singing career or the scenes where Sameera accepts Pavan’s love, which is structured with a set-up and a payoff. In addition to the two leads, we also have a goldfish with a voiceover. I must admit, though I struggled to understand why the goldfish had dialogues - the closing scene, where Sameerana decides to release her pet into the Hussain Sagar by stating, "Have we not understood what confinement feels like," provides a satisfying touch, with me sorely wishing the film had more of them.

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