Prabhutva Junior Kalasala movie review
Prabhutva Junior Kalasala poster

Prabhutva Junior Kalasala Movie Review: Yet another emotionally skewed love story

There is plenty of beautiful aesthetic in this movie about teenage love and heartbreak, but not enough emotional sensitivity, especially towards its female characters
Prabhutva Junior Kalasala(2 / 5)

There is perhaps a strong reason why we continue to get so many coming-of-age films and movies about teenagers. It’s that phase of life that offers innumerable new experiences. Every emotion feels excessively intense—the euphoria as well as the anguish. You have too much going on in your head and too little maturity to deal with it efficiently. In its best moments, Prabhutva Junior Kalasala captures that intensity with an infectious warmth. In its worst moments, the film mistakes its misguided intensity for maturity.

Directed by Sreenath Pulakuram, Prabhutva Junior Kalasala unfolds in a sleepy little village where people take their time to go about their day. There is a gentle, breezy quality to the narrative, particularly in the first half where Vasu (Pranav Preetham) and his friends go about their lives, even as Vasu makes multiple attempts to get close to his crush, Kumari (Shagna Sri Venun). The narrative too drifts along breezily on this slice-of-life vibe, very content in capturing the beauty of the everyday. Sreenath incorporates plenty of visuals of nature and the life that surrounds our protagonists, which add to the idyllic atmosphere.

Cast: Pranav Preetham, Shagna Sri Venun, Mallika Jagula, Sri Munichandra, Ram Patas

Director: Sreenath Pulakuram

The film is set in 2004, and there’s a decidedly old-school touch to the narrative. Vasu is compelled, in the age of no social media, to steal a passport photo of his beloved. It has all the sugary tropes of an adolescent romance, right down to the lovers writing bad-but-heartfelt poetry while thinking of their beloved.

Yet, there are some moments where the film displays a sense of self-awareness about its cliches. Even as Vasu enthusiastically pursues Kumari, the director ensures to incorporate visuals of other boys hovering around Kumari. We realise Vasu is just another fish in the pond for her, at least for the moment. He may be our protagonist, but nothing about him sets him apart. He is… just another boy. And yet, deep down, you resist this sinking feeling about whether Prabhutva Junior Kalasala will sooner or later go down the Baby route or actually offer a new perspective on adolescent romance. 

Which is why Prabhutva Junior Kalasala ends up being an even more frustrating film—because it lets your worst fears come true. There is plenty of beautiful filmmaking going on here. Sreenath is a skilled and visual director. He knows about the importance of maintaining a colour scheme for a film that’s so aesthetic in its design. He knows how to shoot and place the close shots of Vasu’s restless palms during an intensely amorous moment. But he also insists on keeping a skewed lens on his female protagonist. Kumari remains a mystery to the viewer, despite occupying a fairly long screen time. We see Kumari mostly through Vasu’s gaze in every stage of their relationship. So when Vasu begins to doubt her loyalty, we have no choice but to grudgingly comply. While Vasu’s pals cry with him, Kumari’s friend casts aspersions on her character. When the film runs out of conflicts, it seeks out the female protagonist, determined to find an easy villain figure in her. That’s where the trouble lies. Sadly, he can’t think beyond the stereotypes usually seen around a doomed romance.

We are forced to dislike Kumari for her choices; she appears one-dimensional for most of the narrative, except for one sequence early on, where we get a glimpse of her household. Through an amusing sequence, we learn that Kumari’s mother is having an affair and that Kumari is aware of it yet not particularly fond of the new ‘father’ at the house. This scene offers the promise of watching a female protagonist deal with her own set of complex emotions as her male counterpart.

However, as it mostly turns out, we learn of the film’s infuriating moral lessons much later. Vasu comes from a poor family, with both parents living the best stereotypes of a suffering, overworked mother and an alcoholic, jobless father, respectively. Unknown to Vasu, his mother is facing extreme financial adversity. What the film consciously does is pit these two women in Vasu’s lives on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. While Vasu’s mother remains a tragic, sacrificial figure, Kumari, by virtue of being kept at bay, could only appear as an ungrateful, conniving girl. Vasu, of course, remains a wronged boy who, for all his follies, made the naive mistake of loving too deeply—or so we are told.

In reality, Prabhutva Junior Kalasala suffers from the same problem that plagues nearly every Telugu film—the word is misogyny. And none of the beautiful aesthetics would be enough to distract us from this glaring, inherent problem at hand.

Cinema Express