It’s easy for us, especially for someone like me, to make fun of something we aren’t a part of, something we are looking at from afar. For better or worse, film industries in our country are easy targets. We question their every move, we moral police them, we make fun of their dumb movies and out of touch characters. But we don’t care about them, now do we? We don’t care how they got their asses on screen, we just care that they show us a good time. So, Nirudyoga Natulu is a response to that indifference. It says if you are gonna judge us, you better have some information.
The series is about four struggling actors. They all come from different places and they all are at different points in their journey. While Lakshman is contemplating leaving cinema over his fear of getting stereotyped, Jagadish leaves everything behind in Warangal and comes to Hyderabad to try his luck. If Anvesh is the over-anxious guy whose moral rigidity won’t let him give his best, Pavan’s moral fluidity makes him come off as a creep at times.
Sasi and Rohit co-directed most of the show in an intimate fashion, which kind of gets too eccentric at times, but that’s okay. Even though it takes its time (3 episodes, to be precise) to find its core and momentum, it is worth the wait. And cinematography by Shashank is rather impressive and it is what allows the affinity feel real. He plays with light and its absence very cleverly. The way he frames his shots enrich them with more information about the characters and the scene than any dialogue between them ever could. And Vivek Sagar’s music adds heft when it should and whimsy when there is a need for a breeze.
At the risk of sounding like Abhay’s character, editing is important and when an editor is capable, he/she can take storytelling to another level. I just couldn’t help but marvel at the editing done by Rohit. Almost all episodes have at least two parallel stories running independently, but the way they are cut and then intertwined into each other facilitates layering and the possibility of subtext. They might not even be talking about the same thing, but providing multiple perspectives added nuance and insight to the narrative. The fact that Rohit co-wrote the screenplay helps too, I think.
There is an undeniable improv vibe to the film, which isn’t a bad thing especially when the actors doing the improvisation are as talented as this bunch. Lakshman’s fed up guy from Odisha is equal parts funny and heartbreaking. When someone tells him to be patient and uses Rahul Ramakrishna as an example, he says ‘Do I have to wait until Srikakulam yasa becomes a fad to get good roles?’ The way this single dialogue captures everything that’s wrong with trends and stereotypes is a minimalistic rarity in our industry. Anvesh and Jagadeesh are perfect as the docile guys whose passion for cinema made them take huge risks. Abhay’s cocky as hell co-director is pitch perfect. Things obviously didn’t work well for him in Mumbai, so he projects all that bitterness on this new project and all his anger on a loose cable wire and an AD, obviously. The heart of the story, though, is Pawan and his selflessness. By the end of the show, he helps everyone get a chance but himself, but there isn’t a hint of sadness or jealousy. This might also be because he enjoys the lethargic phase of his life more than most.
I had a problem with the women in it. How they are always shown with respect to the main characters and how there aren’t any struggling female actors who aren’t using their body to get by. But then the lack of judgment towards their choices kind of makes up for it. This series is an ode to all those fools who are brave enough to do something about their love for cinema. Our reaction isn’t of any importance, and the absence of subtitles suggests that they don’t care about popularity or views either. So, watch it for your own sake. Watch it because it’s just as important to encourage the good as it is to rip apart the bad, and this show is really good.