After a successful Ashta Chamma, director Mohankrishna Indraganti takes up the Telugu film Golconda High School (GHS), based on the book The Men Within by Harimohan Paruvu.
Mohan has done a fine job, aided by a superb technical team plus the backing of producer Ram Mohan. He has captured the essence of the book and the end result is a fairly gripping narrative and screenplay.
Commercialisation has its hazards. A board member Kireet Das (Subbiraju) of the Golconda High School Principal in connivance with teacher Madhu (Shafi) threatens the Principal Vishwanath (Tanikella Bharani) that they would convert the playground into a coaching centre. He and the other board members feel that the school's performance in academics and sports has declined and they eye the property as a good real estate proposition.
Vishwanath is aghast and does not want this to happen. He wants to protect the grounds and bring back the lost glory of the school. He sends word through the peon, the old man Jaani mia to Sampath (Sumanth) to meet him. Sampath, one of the ex-students of the school was bright in academics and cricket but has now turned an alcoholic and has fallen apart from partners in business. Vishwanath offers Sampath the job of a cricket coach. Initially Sampath declines but on hearing Kireet Das argue for the coaching centre, he accepts it.
Then the herculean task of building up the cricket team begins. It's a motley group of boys who have their own egos and issues. Initially they dislike Sampath. But slowly Sampath gains their confidence and readies them to face the inter-school championship. The tale is all about emotions, life skills, instilling leadership qualities, unity, optimism etc.
Sampath does a fine job of not just coaching them in cricket but also helping them focus on studies due to cricket. The boys are a rejuvenated lot willing to go for the championship. However, Sampath has a dark past behind him. Will this come in the way of the boys participating in the championship? Will they be able to rescue their school?
An analogy can be drawn with Chak De! India in the case of the tarnished reputation of the coach and the attempt to regain former glory albeit to some extent.
The book actually takes an in-depth view of this whole process. But the film runs as fast as the boys do on the pitch.
Interspersed in the screenplay are small nuggets of life, education, sports, etc. for parents and children as well as teachers to take home. The suspense is maintained well in the cricket matches.
Somehow the scenes between Sampath and the English teacher played by Swati seemed a bit of out of place and do not gel with the main story. It seemed to have been deliberately inserted for the 'romantic' angle.
Mohankrishna has succeeded in the onerous and challenging task of adapting the book to film. He has no doubt looked at the crucial points and retained its core and spirit. The dialogues are good and the messages to take home are woven in without being sermonising.
Mohan has gathered a superb technical team which has only enhanced his story telling. Senthil Kumar shoots his second sports film after Sye. His camera picks up the right moments and even the momentum and sets the tone well. It's not easy to shoot a sports film and Senthil does a commendable job. Shravan Katikaneni ensures the picture is almost perfect with his editing given the fact that there is so much action in the film. Ravindra's art direction is notable.
Kalyani Malik's music has added the zing to the film. Be it his songs particularly Jaago re (which is full of energy) or his background score, he is able to impart the necessary punch and vitality which has made a huge difference.
Mohan must be credited for getting the best out of the 14 boys. The boys are good, each delivering what was required of them. They are the real heroes of the film. They were natural and expressed their emotions well. Santosh (Gautham) and Sangeet (Varun), sons of late director Sobhan were good.
The cast is perfect. Sumanth is just right for the role as the coach. His expressions, dialogue delivery, body language are great. He should be proud of doing this film. The role of Sampath would probably count as one of his best roles.
Swati looks pretty and vivacious on screen and in fact brought some cheer too. Her wardrobe of saris is good and makes her look elegant.
Subbaraju dominates the scenes he is in. It goes without saying that Subbiraju, Shafi and Tanikella Bharani are fine actors who can play any role successfully.
On the face of it, Golconda High School is a sports film, yet it has entertainment too and something to carry home as well. It's inspirational. It's not often that we get to see such meaningful yet entertaining cinema in Telugu.
Kudos to Ram Mohan, Mohan Krishna Indraganti and others for coming up with such a fine piece of cinema!