An adolescent character curiously named ‘lipstick spoiler’ Lokesh keeps harping on the importance of connecting with the youth. He knows that torn jeans are a fashion statement and that videos of charming rural love stories will pique the interest of smartphone users. The predominantly young cast and crew of the Telugu film Mem Famous, which introduces more than 40 newcomers to Telugu cinema, aims to nail this youthful vibe in the narrative. Sumanth Prabhas, debuting as actor, writer and director, narrates a coming-of-age story of three young men who go from being wastrels to finding purpose in their lives. It is a familiar story packed with old tropes, heavily relying on the lived-in depiction of the rural Telangana lifestyle to work its magic. And, Mem Famous succeeds partially.
Mem Famous (Telugu)
Cast: Sumanth Prabhas, Mani Aegurla and Mourya Chowdary
Direction: Sumanth Prabhas
Music: Kalyan Nayak
Storyline: Three carefree young men in rural Telangana find a purpose in life but realise that growing up isn’t easy
Mahesh or Mai (Sumanth Prabhas), Baali or Balakrishna and Durga have been friends since childhood. They while away their time and have a knack for landing themselves in embarrassing squabbles. The villagers think of them as headaches and their parents, too, have nearly given up on them. A fun-packed opening episode establishes the nature of the happy-go-lucky friends who think they can get past any sticky situation with easy banter.
The narrative is packed with endearing characters and is written with an understanding of the rural Telangana lifestyle. The names of the villagers, the true-to-reality houses, the dialect, the food and the festivals add charm to the film. Mem Famous is the latest addition to the line-up of Telugu films dipping into the Telangana milieu, after Dasara and Balagam earlier this year. The characterisation of Mai, Baali and Durga also brings back memories of the Jogipet trio from Jathi Ratnalu.
Unlike Jathi Ratnalu, Mem Famous stays put in rural Telangana for the most part. It takes an entire village to accelerate the turnaround of the three boys, with subplots of two love stories and a loan acting as a catalyst. Good Samaritans in the form of Anji mama and sarpanch Jinka Venu pitch in to help the boys. You can spot the hurdles from a mile, both in business and in romance, and the boys soon realise that growing up isn’t easy.
As hurdles pile up, the simple story feels needlessly stretched. Some portions call for patient viewing. There are sporadic segments of sparkling fun and quiet moments of introspection for the boys. Some segments feel like they belong to amateurish YouTube short films. Much later, a subplot of making videos for YouTube is also thrown in.
The affable villagers in different age groups and their easy banter salvage the tale when it loses momentum. Bringing in singer Goreti Venkanna perks up the proceedings but the finale feels both contrived and rushed.
Sumanth Prabhas does a fine job of handling multiple tasks in his first feature film; he is a talent to watch out for. He gets ample support from Mani Aegurla, Mourya Chowdary and several other actors including the dependable Muralidhar Goud. Shyam Dupati’s visuals and Kalyan Nayak’s music further accentuate the Telangana setting.
Mem Famous is a film that had potential. The slice-of-life comedy-drama would have benefited from sharper writing and editing.