Skylab Movie Review: A Wobbly Humor Musical Drama

Actors: Satyadev Kancharana, Nithya Menen and others

Director: Vishvak Khanderao

Running time: 148 minutes

Rating: 2.5 / 5

From the start, the narrator says that the people of Bandalingampally (the village of Telangana where the story of “Skylab” takes place) are unlike any other. The staging makes the audience believe that the characters are, well, special. And many of them are indeed that way. Characterizations are fodder for the urban public. Villagers strive to show fear or frustration or any other emotion expected of them when told that the NASA Skylab space station may crash, 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 only positive aspect of the writing is this: Anand (Satyadev), Gowri (Nithya Menen) and Ramarao (Rahul Ramakrishna) have finally come of age. Their journey is an integral part of what others in the village feel and think. Anand is a doctor who needs to get his license back. Gowri is a Muppet journalist who comes straight from the cinematic world of Jandhyala. At the same time, she is not a total prankster because she wants to become proficient. Ramarao wants to swim beyond the shackles of the false honor that his elders have imposed on him.

Skylab ‘is authentic in the way its premises play out. It’s deep in the way her final act plays out. It’s mediocre otherwise. It’s like a Malayalam movie with great potential and long boring streaks.

The situations are idiosyncratic but the humor that emerges from them barely sticks (with a few exceptions). The character of Rahul Ramakrishna is delivered with naivety; this is an example of convenient writing, considering Satyadev’s character to be opportunistic. When they do not exist, repartees sound lame. Ramarao is reduced to a speechless prop in Anand’s Journey.

A major complaint is that Anand, Gowri, and Ramarao don’t show pain in the pre-interval stretching. This lessens the impact of what will ensue in the second half. Even though the day of the end is just around the corner (it happens so quickly that entire weeks go by in an edit song), the stakes are not soaring. Prashant R Vihari’s tasty background music works in the “comedy” parts, but when the storytelling continues to be relaxed even in the second half, the BGM exposes the lack of vision.

For a period musical drama, songs are functional at best. So much could have been done for a few dreamers to chart a new course in uncertain times. The prospect of Skylab causing a humanitarian crisis is addressed generically. This is why the film fails to pull itself together before the final act. Considering the strengths deployed by the writing department over the last 15 minutes, the film would have benefited from a handful of more serious scenes in the second half.

More than the main men, it’s Vishnu Oi who nails it down with his moderate comedic timing. Nithya Menen is impeccable, while Aditya Javvadi’s cinematography is attentive. The production design of Shivam Rao deserves a mention.

About Victoria Rothstein

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