“The story your parents forgot to tell you.” This is the tagline of Skylab, written and directed by Vishvak Khanderao. It is accurate because our parents did forget. But the film has no interest in the titular earthbound satellite, only its effects on a community. It is merely an excuse to explore a village, Banda Lingampally, and its many eccentricities. People there don’t panic the way you’d expect, even their chaos is a bit peculiar. This, in turn, results in a film that is just as peculiar, delightfully so.
Skylab’s palette is colourful and joyous. It is exciting to finally find a filmmaker who appreciates the colour blue for all that it evokes and conveys. Everything important in the film – rock to toy airplane – is painted some shade of blue. Vishwak is detail-oriented and patient. He casually places a wall of Raj Kapoor’s movie posters in a few frames, but only reveals their relevance in the end. The way Vishwak writes his characters reminded me of Jhandyala; how most of his characters are caricatures, yet fully-realised human beings. Here too, despite the dreamlike world-building, the characters are rounded. Their quirks never render them one-dimensional.
“Loved and Produced by Prithvi Pinnamaraju,” proclaim the title credits and after watching the film, you realise that’s not an exaggeration. Skylab feels like it’s made by a team that understands one another completely. Prashanth Vihar’s BGM doesn’t feel like a separate entity. It becomes one with the movements of the characters, as if they too can hear it and are only acting accordingly. It also helps intensify the theatricality of it all. Vishvak’s screenplay does the heavy lifting while managing a thematic link between story jumps. But the impeccable scene transitions, aided by match cuts and visual cues, are a result of editor Ravi Teja and cinematographer Aditya Javvadi working as a single unit.
Anand (Satya Dev) is a doctor who needs to make some quick money to get his certificate back, and he isn’t too particular about the means. Subedar Rama Rao (Rahul Ramakrishna), a man whose family history is a burden, is looking for a way out of debt. They eventually find each other and decide to open a clinic in the village. Gauri (Nithya Menen), a journalist, is looking for a story to write, to see if she is worth anything as a writer. Seenu (Vishnu) is her accomplice, a man who works in her father’s house and indulges her every whim. Rahul Ramakrishna is one of those actors who can play an entertainingly frustrated man in his sleep, so it surprises no one that he is good as Rama. Satya Dev’s Anand, on the other hand, is a bit more layered. He is a good man stuck in a pragmatist’s mindset. He is never sure of his decisions – what’s good for him vs what’s good for others. The actor manages to show us this struggle, especially in the pre-climax sequence. But the most impressive performance comes from Vishnu, who plays Seenu with maternal warmth and friendly camaraderie. His chemistry with Menen is flawless.
Gauri is a peculiar character. She makes it a point to separate herself from her father, a Dora, even paints over his name in her room’s nameplate. But is blissfully ignorant of the privilege that celebrates her mediocrity. Menen has a theatricality about her. Even when she is saying/doing something small, her screen presence makes it seem like the most important thing. In any other film with simple intentions, like the insufferable Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju, this grandness would’ve been an issue. But Skylab, a film that wants to dramatize the casual parts of life, gives her the space to shine. Even if we laugh at Gauri’s delusions at first, we soon are nudged, by Menen’s able performance, to empathise with this sheltered, yet well-intentioned woman.
That’s exactly what Skylab is as a film. Self-indulgent in parts (the slight lull after the intermission is a result of this), but always earnest. After realising her humble place in the scheme of things, Gauri remarks, “Choose kallu, raase opika undale gaani, oorantha kadhale (All you need is the right eye and patience to write, for the village is filled with stories).” The film, then, is meticulously crafted as an ode to such stories. They look the same from afar, but give them a minute and they will gift you a moment you can fondly remember for a lifetime. Every subplot – whether it’s Saranya Pradeep’s character, the sculptor Lacchi, or the boy who waits by the koneru – has a purpose and is fully realised. The gaze might be a bit dreamy and naive, but if Gauri ever makes a film, this is what it would look like. I, for one, am excited to see what’s in store for her, and for the man who’s created her.
This Skylab review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.