Prabutwa Junior Kalashala (2024): Honest Portrayal of Coming-of-age Immature Love Story of Teens

Prabhutva Jr Kalashala Movie Review

The comparison with Baby(2023) is inevitable for this movie, but the gaze of Sreenath Pulakuram is not in the villainizing Kumari, but the honest sympathising with Vasu. 

The story of Vasu and Kumari isn’t new. Vasu, studies Intermediate, falls in love with an angelic, much-hyped beauty queen of the Prabhutva Junior Kalashala (Government Junior College) of Punganuru.  We have seen this generic storyline and ‘heard’ this story numerous times in our teenage years. 

Prabuthwa Junior Kalashala is a coming-of-age story of immature “lovers’ ‘ behaving immaturely that aptly suits their adolescent age. What makes Prabhutva Junior Kalashala good and different from other stories is its gaze and nuanced hiding of essential details, much like a thriller– that too an open-ended one. 

Let me first address the elephant in the room: the Baby (2023) factor. Of course, the comparison with Baby is inevitable. The comments on Youtube for the Trailer and the echoes of “Premisthunna” song-cry in the theatre from audience while watching makes it evident how Prabhutva Junior Kalashala is being perceived– as an opportunistic revamp of Baby-ish character assassination of women and romanticising the love-failure ‘Devadas’. On the premise, it appears to be true. But, I believe it is our sexist gaze projected on the film, not of the film maker’s gaze. 

Kumari is an insecure single child to a middle-class single mother seeking paternal care and attention. Vasu is a shy and studious fellow from a poor dysfunctional home. Both are seeking love, just like any hormone-rushed teenagers. They are quick to fall in and out of love. The quickness of falling in love is not rushed, but the falling out of love is really really quick. The jealous toxic possessiveness of Vasu and “friendly” take-it-easy nature of Kumari are happening too quickly. It doesn’t give you enough time to process it all. The processing is needed for us to judge the characters from our own gender-politics. The filmmakers intelligently avoids being judgemental and leaves the audience to figure out for themselves of their own gender-politics. But, there are a few indicative scenes which concretes our judgement. But, it is not clear enough. This ambiguous characterisation without much detailing and revealing reminds of the times of our college days, where the rumours around a woman are more stronger than her voice and the “truth”. Even in this movie, the rumours and nearly-evident scenes tops over “truth”, the truth only Sreenath might know. 

The recent trend of bringing the rooted language on the screens is a very good thing. We see characters in PJK speaking like the characters we see in real life. Of course, there is a bit of cinematic poeticness in dialogue. But, it is cinema. Mallika Jagula is terrific as Vasu’s mother, acing the Rayalaseema diction very well. Every character in the movie continues the diction. This makes it more authentic. 

There is a lot of nostalgia in the film. Sreenath Pulakuram, writer and director, takes a good amount of runtime to establish the nostalgic mood of the villages. There are montages of characters playing with origami camera and guys playing cricket with paper ball & exam pad, and cutting the heads of flower-beads of a flower. The cinematography of Nikhil Surendran helped a lot to create a cool, lush-green rainy mood of the movie.Making a teen-love story without falling in the “nibba-nibbi” (cringe) categorisation is a hard task. But, PJK took care of it with serious heart-felt music composition from Syed Kamran. The music brought an honest humbleness to the immature infatuated-love of two insecure teens. 

The intelligent avoidance of judgement by Sreenath is both a plus and a minus. The plus is the open ended nature of the climax doesn’t give you all the needed answers to complete the character arc and the plotline. It leaves you shocked and wanting for more. It sometimes feels good to have the movie travel back to your bedroom even though it lacks a few answers. 

Prabutwa Junior Kalashala is now playing in cinemas. 

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