Death is a tricky yet sensitive subject to deal with. But Venu Yeldandi, in his directorial debut, ‘Balagam,’ has greatly amalgamated superstitions associated with crows in relation to death to narrate a sad family tale. When you observe a crow cawing right at the beginning of the movie above Koamrayya’s head, you know for sure that death awaits. Venu quite efficiently uses death as the reason for a dissociated family to reconnect and revive their ties. He employs the crow as the messenger of Yamraj, the Hindu deity of death, to resolve family issues, bringing about harmony and unity and breaking the odd drama of egos.
‘Balagam’ gives us a moment to stop and enjoy the beauty of a rhythmic village, which perhaps today would be impossible to treat ourselves to. The film starts with a song that introduces us to the village and its peculiar nature of being a mother and daughter, an abode to varied families, and like a garland that stays connected and intertwined with each despite differences in human persons. As the film proceeds, we learn about the hamlet’s family woes that start surfacing after the death of the elder Koamrayya. Besides the overarching family conflicts, ‘Balagam’ also gives us a glimpse of the individual apprehensions that characters face.
Can The Death Of Koamrayya Bring The Grieving Family Together?
Koamrayya, being the elder in the family and village, has a jovial and quirky character. Some of the villagers like him, and some want him to disappear. Nevertheless, he isn’t someone you can get rid of because his absence would make you feel empty. From the start, you are sure to relate to the grandfatherly figure of Koamrayya and feel lucky to have him. His absence after death haunts, therefore, not just his family members but the whole village. Should we consider that a trait of a village? But not all members of a village are liked, loved, and admired like Koamrayya. The family is brought together after the death of Koamrayya; the eldest son Ailaiah was obviously in the village along with his wife, Swaroopa, and son Sailu. The youngest son Mogiliaiah and his wife, Sujatha, with their daughters Veena and Vani, return from Surat. Koamrayya’s younger daughter Lakshmi and her husband Narayana, along with their daughter Sandhya, return from their palatial home in the city.
Each of them has returned to their house due to the death of their father, but they have gotten stuck in their past and its conflicts, and haven’t attempted to resolve them. If not for these conflicts, they would be a happy joint family. Their selfishness, bloated egos, jealous mindsets, and individualistic attitudes have kept them far away from the bond they shared once upon a time.
Venu expertly shows their differences by exposing their petty temperaments when each of them tries to prove that they are great and that their sacrifices individually will be accepted by the soul of Koamrayya through the crow. After the death of a person, in Hinduism, the Shraddha ceremony is performed, honoring the ancestor and intending to nourish and support the spirits of the dead as they move from the lower realm to the higher realm before they reincarnate and reappear on earth. The rite takes place before the 11th day, and thus, Ailaiah, the eldest son, takes it upon himself the challenge to sacrifice four lambs and offer them to the dead. But unfortunately, the crow doesn’t feast on the sacrifices made and food prepared. Thus, the son-in-law, Narayana, challenges Ailaiah and sacrifices ten lambs only to meet the same fate. Both of them have taken care of one ritual each, but their offerings proved to be a failure.
The family was together, but something was deeply lacking. Mogiliaiah, the youngest son, didn’t make a sacrifice, he was only there to get his share of the property, sell it, and return back to Surat. Sailu, on the other hand, was taking advantage of the death of his grandfather to marry Sandhya, receive a dowry, and pay off his loan. So, physically, they were under one roof, but mentally, they were far from each other and the values that their grandparents instilled in them.
Why Is Koamrayya’s Soul Unsatisfied?
The very many conflicts present in the family and the half-hearted sacrifices that each of them offers to prove themselves greater than the other leave the soul of Koamrayya unsatisfied and anguished. While a person is alive, he isn’t treated the way he is when he’s dead. Koamrayya wanted the family to stay united in harmony, but their individual differences and egos kept them apart. If Ailaiah and Mogiliaiah had paid attention to their brother-in-law the night they sat down to have dinner together and not left him alone while they attended to their sarpanch, perhaps the conflict wouldn’t exist at all. Or if Narayana had gotten rid of his ego and forgiven his brothers-in-law, perhaps the conflict wouldn’t have arisen at all. If Sailu had been truthful and accepted that his petty, small-scale businesses weren’t working and wouldn’t have taken on more debt, perhaps he would respect his grandfather and not consider his death a bad omen at first and have taken the opportunity to gather money to pay the loan. If Mogiliaiah had taken a stand and said no to the intentions of his wife regarding the division of the property, possibly there would be no cause for further concern and conflict in the family. Koamrayya wanted his family to be an ideal family, and that is what he believed it to be; therefore, when he died, perhaps his soul wasn’t satisfied, and he wanted it to come back to its pristine nature.
‘Balagam’ Ending Explained: Is Sailu Able To Pay The Borrowed Loan?
Sailu fails at all his business ventures, and to pay off the loan he borrowed, the only solution he finds is dowry. So he agrees to marry a girl and then, despite the death of his grandfather, is busy prioritising his fiancé. He welcomes the girl and her family, even offering to pay the auto charges. He prompts the girl to cry while near the dead body of his grandfather. He offers her a handkerchief and a chair, followed by a cold drink. So much to attract her attention and interest in him. He wants to prove to her that he is the best she could get, but his plans are foiled when she is accused of being unlucky to the family and the reason for the death of Koamrayya. Thus, the wedding is called off after the conflict between the two families occurs. Sailu still looks for more opportunities, apart from being ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help his family with the varied tasks entrusted to him. Sailu understands that Sandhya, is rich, and if he marries her, his problem will be solved. So again, instead of paying attention to the dead grandfather and giving him honor, he gets engaged in keeping Sandhya happy and attracting her attention.
Nevertheless, when the brother of Koamrayya expresses to the family that it was the intention of his brother that Sailu and Sandhya get married, the whole family is unsettled, but this becomes a reason for them to get rid of their differences and stand alongside each other. Lakshmi considers this a great honor and expresses that her father loved her a lot, so much so that just to see her, he wanted his granddaughter to be married in the same house. Koamrayya thought about the future of his children not just when he was alive but even when he was dead and gone. Given that the sacrifice offered on the 11th day is feasted upon by more than one crow, the union of Sailu and Sandhya was certainly happening. And we can thus assume that he was able to pay back the borrowed loan.
“Balagam” is a 2023 Telugu comedy drama film directed by Venu Tillu.