“Sharathulu Varthisthai”: A Noble Attempt Lost in Trivial Drama

‘Sharathulu Varthisthai’ (conditions apply) is essentially a footnote often ignored to our peril. In a world where fine print can be a breeding ground for swindlers preying on the unsuspecting, imagine the upheaval when an average Joe stands up to call their bluff. Director Kumara Swamy, alongside co-writer Peddinti Ashok Kumar, takes us through a storyline extracted from the pages of reality. Despite the bona fide setting of a lower middle-class backdrop in Karimnagar embracing the Telangana dialect and Chaitanya Rao’s commendable performance, the film struggles to rise above its mundane narrative.

As the opening credits fade into the backdrop of suspicious chatter signaling forthcoming crime, a snapshot of the enigmatic political ambitions of one character and the accumulated respect of another as a basti leader paints the prelude to this cautionary tale.

Rewinding from this overture, Swamy offers us a candid glimpse into the day-to-day hustle of a Karimnagar colony’s lower middle-class residents, painting their struggles and aspirations against the canvas of lived-in homes. At the center is protagonist Chiranjeevi (Chaitanya Rao Madadi), a government office clerk balancing his job and the responsibilities toward his family, including his mother and two younger siblings. The slow pace and organic dialogues evoke a 1980s or 1990s cinema feel, juxtaposing simple middle-class narratives against a contemporary issue backdrop. A newspaper advert introducing the ‘Golden Plate’ chit fund investment scheme foreshadows a plot that has become all too predictable — and not in a good way.

Nevertheless, before the hammer drops on the predictable chit fund scam, romance blooms between Chiranjeevi and Vijayashanti (Bhoomi Shetty), high school sweethearts teetering on the edge of financial hardship. A subtle tribute to real-life Telugu film legends is woven in, yet fails to resonate with audiences seeking nostalgic gratification.

Vijayashanti’s character, which begins with gusto, soon wanes into a somewhat cliched portrayal of a strong yet shortsighted woman, with her naive impulsiveness morphing into soap opera-like tedium as she quarrels with her mother-in-law (Swarna Kilari).

The bulk of the film drifts through middle-class dreams and their inherent temptation for easy riches. While Chiranjeevi stands firm against such temptations, those around him are less hesitant. When the chit fund scandal comes to light, its unveiling lacks the shock factor that might have saved the film from its plodding depiction of interpersonal dynamics.

The household squabbles and the friends coaxing Chiranjeevi toward the chit fund feel overdone, located between the bland and the banal. The chit fund schemers’ tale is rendered as a ludicrous play, yielding a stark portrait of the gullibility that fails to perceive the grand deception.

Chiranjeevi is the cornerstone – a paragon who never falters, consistently compassionate toward his family. However, even his stoicism has limits, and when the scam shatters his community’s dreams, ruffling his calm demeanor, the retribution is swift yet disappointingly devoid of complexity or struggle.

Chaitanya Rao’s earnest portrayal of an idealistic clerk and Bhoomi Shetty’s solid performance stand out amidst the tediously cast characters. Yet, the script lacks the punch needed to elevate the film beyond a prosaic narrative.

‘Sharathulu Varthisthai,’ with its noble intent, ultimately morphs into an unremarkable and prolonged public service announcement. It serves as a warning against deceptive investment schemes and reflects on the dangers of quick riches. What remains is a film created with sincerity but enfeebled by its lackluster storytelling, begging the question of how potent a message can truly be when its delivery falters.

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