Kanche (“fence”), directed by Krish – who previously helmed the critically acclaimed Vedam – is a wonderful, classic tale of romance imbued with piquant social commentary. For a change, audiences can witness a Telugu movie with great actors, lyricists, musicians and direction as well as a theme that, despite being rooted in rich, tumultuous history, can easily be applied to today’s times. Without being preachy, banal, or monotonous, Krish weaves the story masterfully.
The story centers around two youngsters who fall in love in a University in Tamil Nadu during 1930s British India. The boy, Haribabu (Varun Tej) is “intelligent, humorous, and good looking,” according to the film's female protagonist, Seeta Devi (Pragya). Seeta’s family, who belong to the zamindar clan in their village, do not agree to the relationship between these two characters, however, as Hari belongs to a lower caste in the same village. Thus, Eeshwar, Seeta’s brother, vows personal vengeance against Hari.
Krish parallels this story with World War II, in which colonial India is, ironically, forced to join the British in its fight against fascist Germany and Hitler. Hari is one amongst the battalion in the war headed by Eeshwar. Due to extenuating circumstances, the Germans capture the battalion, though Hari and a few others manage to escape. The rest of the movie unfolds along with their journey to rescue other members of the battalion, including Eeshwar.
Kanche is inclusive and tender in its deployment. Krish links the idea of combating a fascist superpower like Germany that is targeting Jews to the caste politics of a tiny village in the remote south Indian state of Andhra – a subtle yet powerful demonstration that strings together international conflicts with the same underlying theme of unjust bias in India. In other words, it is very simple to apply the background of World War II to India in the 1930s, as well as today’s India – a relevant, novel comparison. For example, honor killings and caste-based murders (such as the two and three-year-old babies burned alive in Haryana just a month ago because of their lower caste origins) are as common today in India as they were then, both in WWII when Germans killed Jewish children or in local Indian villages. In this movie, therefore, past and present seems to have merged and stood still.
Additionally, I loved the leading pair in the movie, who embody the innocence yet passion of youth with a conviction for their love. The couple’s belief in their assertions and strength in their beliefs attests to the character's equal intelligence. In no way do they resemble the archetype of Indian cinema with an overtly heroic, zero IQ’d hero paired with a vapid heroine who fall in love on the banks of a village river.
The couple is shown as reserved, educated, patient and well versed.
Varun Tej is the son of Nagababu, Chiranjeevi’s brother, but is perfectly restrained in delivery and proves his own merit distinct from his family name – though he still has miles to go. Plus, he’s easy on the eyes. Pragya is ethnically fit to the part, and portrays an olden-days elegance and poise. The love between these two is extremely sweet, mature and heartening to watch. The duets between them are beautifully written (by my favorite Sirivennela), composed and choreographed. On another note, I was extremely delighted to see Sowcar Janaki and Gollpudi after a long time.
Ultimately, I thoroughly loved this movie, the values it projected, and the message it conveyed. Tired of watching commercial Hindi and Telugu cinema with no realistic plots? Go and enjoy this one (it may still be running in Serra theatres). You will not regret it!
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