Palasa 1978: A rustic tale of the feudal era
The Palasa town is now a thriving business hub with hundreds of cashew processing units dotting the coastal town in north Andhra. But once, it was like most small towns across the country, facing neglect with people living in misery. Caste-based oppression and thirst for power were everyday norm. Director Karuna Kumar drew inspiration from his childhood incidents — denial of access to basic amenities, discriminatory treatment to backward class people and how the landlords had their sway over villages and communities — the problems that were prevalent in the latter part of 70s and spilling into the 80s.
The story revolves around Ambusoli, a village that had a majority of Dalits in Palasa town. A family — Padhyala Sunder Rao and his sons Ranga Rao (Thiruveer) and Mohan Rao (Rakshit Atluri), used to make a living out of stage performances and folk dance events during rituals and festivals. They also used to work in cashew processing ‘bhattis’ owned by the ‘Shavukars’ (businessmen) Lingamurthy (Janardhan) and Gurumurthy (Raghu Kunche).
The Dalit families in Ambusoli witness the daily horror of women being teased and ridiculed by people of upper castes, particularly by men belonging to the ‘Shavukars’ and other chieftains of the region. The workers were also not allowed to draw water from wells. Ranga and Mohan taste the grim reality when their sisters are verbally abused by Lingamurthy’s son. To teach him a lesson, the brothers beat him up badly resulting in him turning partially paralysed with a broken leg. Lingamurthy contracts ruffian Bhairagi to kill the brothers. But Mohan kills Bhairagi and becomes the leader of the local people. The event changes the political equation and the story leads into finer details of power, politics and revenge. The second half tells how the revenge drama turns bloodier.
The love track between Mohan and Lakshmi, played by Nakshatra, is pleasant. Folklore songs are entertaining. Nakshatra has a limited role while Rakshith as Mohan and Thiruveer as Ranga have a meaty part. The movie is a bold attempt from debutant Karuna Kumar as the story paints a realistic picture of the feudal era and how the system that once prevailed in Palasa was lopsided in delivering justice to victims.