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Poorna movie review: A beautiful story rests on top of Mt Everest

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 31 March 2017, 16:03 IST

It's a wonder that Poorna Malavath's story isn't as widely known as it should be. It's a wonder, not because she made India proud or that she's a fantastic mountaineer, but because her story is truly remarkable enough for people to take an active interest in it. And this I say from a very market-driven, journalistic point of view.

Poorna's story explains why Rahul Bose joined this project first as an actor and offered to direct it almost immediately. But Poorna, the film, is surprising because it could have been milked for drama, and in that regard Bose has shown a respectable amount of restraint.

The characters

Poorna Malavath (Aditi Inamdar) and her cousin and best friend Priya (S Mariya) shine in the first half of the film. While Inamdar is tasked with carrying the film all the way up to Everest, it is Mariya whose acting chops make every scene she's in hers alone.

Right from her disdain for marriage, to her childlike rebellion, and later compromise, an acceptance of her fate, Mariya has played Priya to perfection, capturing every little emotion.

Rahul Bose as Praveen Kumar is affable, but his Telugu isn't particularly convincing. However, it is a relief to see a male supporter not become the central point to the film. At no point does Praveen Kumar bring his own struggles, agendas into the story, and while that may not have been the case in life, it's refreshing on the screen.

The rest of the cast in the film is a bit weak. The school matron, chief minister, the trainer, etc may have lackluster dialogues, but their delivery is almost awkward. In one scene Bose is asked if he wants to create a Slumdog Mountaineer, an exchange that is so unnatural it makes one uneasy.

The story

But one doesn't leave the theatre thinking about bad dialogues and acting, because the bits that count in Poorna - be it the kids, or the mountaineering shots, are spectacular.

The story of Poorna isn't limited to one girl though. It is the story of an entire village in Telangana, where the success of one girl emerging out of poverty encouraged everyone to send their kids to school.

Poorna Malavath achieved something for the nation, but that achievement was in no way limited to the tag of the youngest to scale Everest. The film spends a lot of time building this backstory, and that honest documentation is worth mentioning. It follows the struggles of kids in government-run schools, kids who go to school for an egg in their mid-day meal. Except, the egg is never served.

It follows the story of two schoolchildren being made to dust their school premises because they couldn't pay fees. If then follows them back home where their father threatens to make them sit at home and clean the house. Because why pay school fees for girls when you'll eventually marry them off?

Poorna is about that moment when the mindset of an entire village is challenged, with many embracing change for the better. And what's truly fantastic is that though it lacks quality in narration, the film doesn't pretend, doesn't dramatise, and absolutely doesn't lose track of its intention.

Rating: 3.5/5

First published: 31 March 2017, 15:11 IST
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.