Story: Bandilingam Palli in Karimnagar is just another village in Karimnagar that is terrified of the space station Skylab collapsing in 1979. They decide to live life to the fullest before the impending doom, and they work hard to make their dreams a reality.
Review: It’s not every day that a film comes along that will melt your heart. Skylab is one of those films that makes you stop and think about how happiness can be found in the smallest of things. This is a rare film in which there is no such thing as a “lead,” because the storey is the protagonist. With the help of heartfelt dialogues, director Vishvak Kanderao brings the characters in this world to life.
It’s the year 1979. SkyLab, a NASA space station, has completed its integration and is set to crash land in South India. The setting is a small village in rural Telangana called Bandilingam Palli. Various characters live there, including Gowri (Nithya Menen), an aspiring journalist who wants her stories to be featured on the cover of a weekly magazine. Anand (Satyadev) is a doctor who has lost his licence and intends to open a clinic in this village.
The first half of the film is full of laughs, but it takes its time getting into the thick of things. Vishvak does not take any cinematic liberties, relying solely on the storey to carry the film forward. While this may give the impression that the film is a’slow watch,’ the villagers’ innocence is pure bliss. One of the most enjoyable tracks involves Subedar Ramarao (Rahul Ramakrishna) and his family’s history. The village is set up in such a way that it transports you back in time. Sure, there are times when your attention wanders, but the first half of the film ends on a positive note.
The second half of the film is now where the true heart of the storey is. When the villagers begin to believe they will all die soon, Gowri views it as a news storey to investigate, sensationalise, and make dope enough to turn into a cover storey. Anand also establishes a clinic with Subedar to begin treating the villagers. The trio discovers intense dreams exist even in these small lives as they travel deep into the lives of the villagers. For example, an elderly Dalit man’s dream is to visit the Ramalayam and see Lord Rama’s statue. He’s been forbidden from entering the temple his entire life, and it’s only because of the impending destruction that his dream comes true. It’s one of the film’s best scenes.
Skylab also does an excellent job of delving into issues such as untouchability, poverty, and a lack of medical resources. Despite the fact that the film is set in the 1970s, it still rings true in 2021 (and it’s nearly 2022!). Prashanth R Vihari, the film’s music composer, creates a beautiful background score that lingers long after the credits have rolled. Skylab relies on the depth that exists within these characters, rather than on how well Nithya, Satyadev, and Rahul perform (which they do admirably). The supporting cast is also excellent.
Skylab isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea because it’s not your typical drama. However, if you’re looking for something lighthearted and different, don’t miss this film in the theatres. Remember to put on a mask.