As someone constantly tormented with a barrage of movies that have barely any story to tell, a typical Telugu movie watcher keeps his/her expectations and standards really low. It can be said that Chitralahari lives up to those low standards.
It neither promises nor delivers anything scintillating. At the same time, it is a little frustrating because the movie, which is a business idea disguised as a story of underdog struggle, had the potential to be more. So much more.
Sai Dharam Tej as Vijay has an idea that he thinks can be used to save lives during road accidents. He is focused and assiduous about it, and yet, success eludes him, given he is running around with a not-so-commercial app-idea. On his personal front he falls for Lahari (Kalyani Priyadarshan), who is low on confidence and is a little gullible. Posani plays the role of a doting but concerned dad, always having Vijay's back.
There is Swecha (Nivetha), Lahari's cynical friend who influences Lahari to break up with a directionless vagabond like Vijay, an error of judgment she eventually regrets. Sunil and Vennela Kishore play cameos, that sans their name don't account to much. At the outset, it needs to be mentioned that Chitralahari is a clean movie that sets out with good intentions.
However, the narrative struggles to find an anchor right throughout. Its protagonist is shaky (for a change Sai Dharam Tej does fit the part of a confused, diffident individual who believes in the idea but is prone to self-doubt) and its leading ladies are silhouette-sketched - without a proper fleshing out of the characters. You cannot empathise with Lahari for her lack of confidence. Nivetha appears stronger with her cynicism and matter-of-factness but that Vijay manages to bring about a change in her with one practical analogy makes you wonder if it was all pretentious cynicism.
The big idea and the big climax are interesting, to be honest, but the lethargic (not languid) flow of the story makes sure you aren't too invested in it at that point of time. Kishore Tirumala's endeavour to show that a patient, obdurate man will gain success feels like a foregone conclusion, but he does a good job of it with an interesting knee-jerk climax. That is also where you feel the build-up could have been better.
In a month when everyone's on adrenaline and hype - what with elections, Avengers and GoT coming up, it is hard to feel excited about an otherwise average, interesting movie. It is mediocre, but not absolute balderdash like other Telugu movies of recent times.
The absence of idolisation of the hero, needless chauvinism, and long monologues on love have been avoided as well, making the movie likable. Some of Vijay's dialogues, like the analogy of a door neither closed nor open, but is left at the mercy of the wind, when asked about his love story, stay with you. Yet, the same dialogues let you down at critical junctures - breakup, climax, or demos of his billion dollar idea.
All in all, Chitralahari tries to be part philosophical, part romantic, part self-help, none of which it achieves in entirety. Nevertheless, it is a semi-decent movie that is not absolute trash. At every point, you could see that it makes an effort to be different, but falls short of the creative spark that is the difference between a good idea and eventually, a good movie.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.