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Krishnamma Review – An incisive peek into a rotten system

Krishnamma is held together by a gripping narrative and strong performances, writes Srivathsan Nadadhur

Watching Krishnamma is a scary prospect, more so when the makers reveal it is inspired by true incidents. If the bulk of mainstream, star-driven cinema thrives on escapism, films like Krishnamma have a better chance at resonating with the common man for their exploration of grass-root realities. Although a redemption drama by genre, it holds up a mirror to the rotten society we live in.

The film is named after the river that’s a silent witness to the turmoil in the lives of three friends. The story is set in Vinchipeta, where cops exploit orphans as scapegoats to resolve cases. Shiva, Bhadra and Koti lead aimless lives, committing petty crimes for easy money. Their only dream is to lead a life of dignity and have a family to fall back upon, but the world keeps reminding them of their place.

When life offers an opportunity for the trio to mend their ways (in the form of Shiva’s love interest), they transform for the better. However, when a crisis tests their resolve, their only hope for quick money is crime again. This time around, there’s no easy escape and their lives are eventually shattered beyond repair. Their only reason for existence is now vengeance. 

Krishnamma is a compelling tale of the hopelessness within the system. Is it a curse to be an orphan? The film suggests all odds are stacked against them – the police force, judiciary and the parties in power care little. Bhadra and Koti are livid with a superior cop not because they’re jailed but more for how he has destroyed all hope in their lives. 

A cop wants to use this high-profile case to climb up the ladder and a supposedly honest lawyer too is lured in return for his professional growth. A constable, agitated with the inner workings of the system, gives up his job and takes up pottery for livelihood. Back in jail, Bhadra plants a sapling to symbolise his quest for revenge.  The criminal who once raped a woman is a ‘bankable’ politician.

Through his pivotal characters, debutant VV Gopala Krishna depicts an average citizen’s angst and helplessness when the system doesn’t stand by them. Going back and forth across timelines, the narrative is intense and keeps you absorbed with its sincerity in the execution. Despite the simplistic plot, the director’s grounded understanding of his ambience enriches the storytelling.

Even as a cinematic experience within a commercially saleable exterior, Krishnamma remains thoroughly engaging as a slow-burn drama, capturing the reality of the world from different dimensions. Not all films are meant for instant gratification. As you return from theatres, you realise Krishnamma is a bitter pill to swallow – it informs, engages and makes you think.

After Godfather, it’s a relief to see Satyadev in a film that makes full use of his under-tapped potential and hunger for better roles. From Gods of Dharmapuri to Godse and now Krishnamma, he proves he’s tailormade for intense portrayals. It’s heartening to see Laxman Meesala cement his position as a solid actor at every opportunity.

Krishna Burugula is yet another worthy addition to Krishnamma’s lineup, cast in a crucial role that changes the story’s direction. Athira Raj’s feisty presence brings liveliness to the proceedings while Nanda Gopal’s authoritarian, minimalistic performance does wonders to his portrayal of a cop. Archana Iyer and Raghu Kunche shine as they last. Tarak Ponnappa’s presence is underutilised. 

Krishnamma is among the better films for Kaala Bhairava as a composer, with the tale providing him enough meat to tap into his potential. Sunny Kurupati’s cinematography and the tightly woven narrative preserve the soul in the story. With a capable team at his disposal, VV Gopala Krishna helms a gripping crime drama that entertains and talks about issues that matter.

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