Thursday, October 30, 2014

Karthikeya review

Written on request.

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As Telugu film viewers, we generally lament at the lack of innovation in our industry. Despite being one of the richest film industries in the country and having an extremely diverse cultural heritage, it is disappointing to admit that we hardly venture into new storytelling forms that reflect our changing times. Instead, we are content to stick to the same old stories, just dabbling with them at the surface level, despite knowing that there is no surefire formula to success. In times like these, Karthikeya comes as a whiff of fresh air.

Thriller, as a film genre, is a fantastic format to transport the viewer straightaway into the realm of the film because nothing piques human interest like the smell of an unsolved mystery. By giving the viewers the chance to play detective along with the protagonist, it makes us question the actions and motivations of the characters as well as our own biases and fixations. As alluring as that may sound, it also takes good craftsmanship and an intuitive ability to grasp the viewers’ thought process to shape a good thriller. If the director reveals too less until the end, the audience feels cheated; Reveal too much straightaway and the final revelation will not be as astonishing. Give too many red herrings and the process turns boring; Too few and the stakes won’t be high enough. Predictably, it is a tightrope walk.

Debutant director Chandoo Mondeti shows both confidence and control in the way Karthikeya unravels itself. The story deals with a thousand-year old temple, whose deity until recently had been considered very powerful, but after a series of deaths within its premises, is deemed cursed and closed down. Admittedly, a very novel premise and the film obligatorily opens with the death of a person who claims he has all the answers. The film then shifts to Karthikeya ( Nikhil Siddharth ), a rationalist who believes all mysteries can be solved and has enough courage to see through most of them. Throw in a pretty girl, two sidekicks, a little kid, experts in Mythology and Science, a madman, seedy characters, some brilliant digital paintings, within a running time of two hours, and you have a film that is fun and engrossing. It could have been much more, had the filmmaker stayed longer with his prime material and taken us deeper into that part of the story, but instead of playing as a full blown, edge-of-your-seat thriller, Karthikeya’s intention is to offer family entertainment, a la Full Meals, with portions of comedy, romance and suspense to cater to all sections of audience. And that it does very well. The comedy portions with Praveen and Sathya are fun, Swathi looks pretty and fits well into her role, Tanikella Bharani, Rao Ramesh and Kishore are competent, and special mention must be made of Nikhil who, after last year’s Swamy Ra Ra and now Karthikeya, is paving a niche path for himself.

Shekhar Chandra’s tunes are melodious as always and he does a good job using sound to induce suspense. Karthik Ghattamaneni’s cinematography uses interesting angles to arouse discomfort and Karthika Srinivas’s editing is brisk, though in the end one couldn’t help but feel the film rushing by. Karthikeya is a well-made film, and though it would be easy to nitpick its little faults, like a couple of loose strands and its choice not to dwell deeper into the main story, the filmmakers must also be appreciated for experimenting with a new concept and for making a film that is not only good, clean fun but also leaves the viewer something to ponder over after walking out of the theatre. Now, what could be a bigger compliment for any film.

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