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Bhoothaddam Bhaskar Narayana Review

Within a familiar crime thriller template with a mystical touch, Bhoothaddam Bhaskar Narayana manages to impress, writes Srivathsan Nadadhur

It’s easy to dismiss films that cash in on popular trends as low-quality art or cheap imitations, but one can’t deny that it requires as much skill to make them work. Bhoothaddam Bhaskar Narayana milks multiple elements that are in vogue in Telugu cinema, exploring the tale of an underdog, homegrown detective and his tryst with mysticism within the crime-thriller template.

The film, now out on aha, is a familiar mishmash of everything we may’ve seen and experienced in Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya, Maa Oori Polimera, Virupaksha – serial killings, superstitions, myths, investigations et al. The film may not boast of an earth-shattering plot or pathbreaking performances or stand-out technical contributions, though there’s a focus in the storytelling that keeps it afloat.

When every second film out in the market deals in broad strokes, biting off more than what it can chew, the thriller, helmed by debutant Purushotham Raaj, has modest goals and doesn’t deal with a protagonist who’s saving the world. Bhaskar doesn’t even have matchsticks to light a cigarette, struggles with his vision without spectacles and barely makes enough money to pay his rent.

Bhoothaddam Bhaskar Narayana breaks away from a few cliches in detective tales – the protagonist is relatable, part of a normal, middle-class family, while also hitting on his journalist neighbour. His only sore spot in life is the mystery surrounding his brother’s death and a cop’s inability to solve the case, laying the foundation behind the choice of his profession.

The crimes come with a pattern – a woman’s head is chopped, left in a white saree where the killer leaves behind a demon’s mask as a signature. A personal loss triggers Bhaskar to drown himself in the investigation, taking the help of a trustworthy friend, a sincere journalist and a friendly cop. It takes some time for the film to leave its laidback vibe behind but once it gains steam, you’re hooked.

The initial hour is utilised to establish the emotional links, building the credibility of a cheeky yet focused detective, although it’s the latter part of the film where his true expertise comes to the fore. While Bhaskar has a sidekick to provide occasional comic relief, it doesn’t obstruct the film’s flow. Provided you look past the cinematic liberties and coincidences, the film keeps getting better.

The mythical backstories leading to the perpetrator are absorbing and the timing of the twists is just about right to sustain the tension in the storytelling. There are no forced commercial compromises and much like the determined detective, you notice a team’s commitment to staying true to its ambience. The aftertaste of an underdog victory – both with the film and the protagonist – is sweet.

The absence of many popular faces beyond Shiva Kandukuri and Devi Prasad works to its advantage – the only goal is to keep the audiences engaged and not pander to an actor’s image/baggage. Shiva is an apt choice for the part – an actor at the right phase hungry to prove himself (like the detective?). Varshini Soundarajan is probably the film’s surprise package in a smartly conceived role.

Rashi Singh’s prominence gets sidetracked eventually, but Lakshmi is one of the better-written female leads in recent times. The supporting cast – from Kalpalatha to Roopalakshmi to Shivakumar Ramchandravarapu to Venkatesh Kakumanu, Sivannarayana, Gaurav and Shafi do the needful. Sri Charan Pakala’s background score and the impressive production design/props aid the director’s cause, contributing to the authenticity of the setting.

(Bhoothaddam Bhaskar Narayana is now streaming on aha)

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