Skylab Movie Review: A musical comedy-drama where humour is wobbly

Cast: Satyadev Kancharana, Nithya Menen and others Director: Vishvak Khanderao Run-Time: 148 minutes Rating: 2.5/5   Right at the outset, the narrator says that the residents of Bandalingampally (the Telangana village where the story of ‘Skylab’ plays out) are unlike others. The staging makes the audience believe that the characters are, well, peculiar. And a lot of them are indeed that way. The characterizations are fodder for the urban audience. The villagers strain to show fear or frustration or whatever emotion is expected of them when they are told that NASA’s space station Skylab can come down crashing, killing them en masse in its wake. The film, written and directed by newcomer Vishvak Khanderao, is set in Karimnagar and the year is 1979.   The one good aspect of the writing is this: Anand (Satyadev), Gowri (Nithya Menen) and Ramarao (Rahul Ramakrishna) eventually come of age. Their journey is integral to what others in the village feel and think. Anand is a doctor who has to earn back his license. Gowri is a muppet journalist who is straight from the Jandhyala cinematic universe. At the same time, she is not a total joker because she wants to become competent. Ramarao wants to swim past the shackles of false honour that his elders have foisted on him.    Skylab’ is authentic in the way its premise plays out. It’s profound in the way its final act pans out. It’s mediocre otherwise. It’s like a Malayalam movie with great potential and long, boring stretches.    The situations are idiosyncratic but the humour emerging from them barely sticks (barring a few exceptions). Rahul Ramakrishna’s character comes with naivete; it is an example of convenient writing, considering that Satyadev’s character is opportunistic. When they are non-existent, the repartees sound lame. Ramarao is reduced to a voiceless prop in Anand’s journey.    A major complaint is that Anand, Gowri and Ramarao don’t show pain in the pre-interval stretches. This waters down the impact of what is going to ensue in the second half. Even as the doomsday is fast arriving (it arrives so fast that whole weeks unfold in a montage song), the stakes don’t soar. Prashant R Vihari’s flavourful background music works in the “comedy” portions, but when the story-telling continues to be relaxed even in the second half, the BGM exposes the lack of vision.    For a period musical comedy-drama, the songs are functional at best. So much could have been done about a few dreamers charting a new path in uncertain times. The prospect of Skylab causing a humanitarian crisis is treated in a generic fashion. That’s why the film fails to get its act together till before the final act. Considering the strengths displayed by the writing department in the last 15 minutes, the film would have benefited from a smattering of many more serious scenes in the second half.    More than the lead men, it’s Vishnu Oi who nails it with his subdued comic timing. Nithya Menen is flawless, while Aditya Javvadi’s cinematography is mindful. Shivam Rao’s production design deserves a mention.

Skylab Movie Review: A musical comedy-drama where humour is wobbly
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