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‘Ambajipeta Marriage Band’ movie review: Dushyanth Katikaneni makes an assured directorial debut with an absorbing drama


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Debut director Dushyanth Katikaneni’s ‘Ambajipeta Marriage Band’ is a hard-hitting story of a fight for dignity, anchored by Suhas and Sharanya Pradeep’s terrific performances

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First-time director Dushyanth Katikaneni’s Telugu film Ambajipeta Marriage Band is not an easy watch. The emotional rollercoaster drama can leave its viewers with a lingering sense of dread, in a state of turmoil, thinking about the characters and their plight well after the film is over. Suhas and Sharanya Pradeep put in terrific performances as twin siblings in the story of the fight for dignity in Andhra Pradesh’s Ambajipeta.

The setting is a village in which caste discrimination runs deep. ‘Based on true events’, announces the title card and though we can guess the broad strokes of the storyline, the characterisations and the questions the narrative brings up make an impact.

The 132-minute film is tautly written and narrated and wastes no time drawing attention to the undercurrents of caste oppression. In the course of the story we learn that several elders in the village have taken loans from Venkat Babu (Nithin Prasanna) who, not surprisingly, has usurped lands when they are unable to pay up.

The generations of exploitation is the backdrop in which the present-day youngsters have to find their voices. A young woman in the village might have earned her post as a government school teacher on merit, but the oppressor will make it sound like she got the job thanks to him. Padma (Sharanya Pradeep) is one such woman who works as a teacher and does not hesitate to address Venkat by his name rather than attach a ‘sir’ or ‘babu’. As expected, this doesn’t augur well with Venkat and his coterie. Her character is the film’s backbone.

Padma’s twin brother, Malli or Mallikarjun (Suhas), is part of the titular marriage band and the twins’ father runs a salon. The setting is 2007, when the movie songbooks were still being old. Setting the story in the years just before the smartphone boom gives the makers scope to look at what could have happened in the village before social media and YouTube videos were possible. In an interview with The Hindu, Suhas stated that the film is partly inspired by real events that Dushyanth had observed in his village.

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