Aswathama movie review: This thriller fails to pack a punch
Naga Shaurya's Aswathama sticks to a template similar to Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas' Rakshasudu but doesn’t drum up the same urgency
Telugu cinema has churned out many thrillers last year like 118, Evaru, Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya, Ninu Veedani Needanu Nene, Game Over, and Rakshasudu among others. None, however, is as lurid as the Naga Shaurya-starrer Aswathama. Made with all the cliched tropes of suspense thrillers, the film falls short of expectations as it is ultimately weighed down by its choppy editing and inconsistent screenplay.
Aswathama is hard to define because you are not quite sure what to make of it. It's is touted to be a thriller, but there are no thrills. It's completely predictable and doesn't take you by surprise even once. It's also meant to be a family drama on one level but lacks the emotional heft pull that off.
In this film that's set in Visakhapatnam, Naga Shaurya plays an NRI, Gana, who returns to India for his sister, Priya’s (Sargun Kaur Luthra) wedding. Just days before she is to marry Ravi (Prince Cecil), Priya attempts to end her life after realising that she is pregnant but is clueless how!
From the opening scene — in which a young woman is kidnapped by four fishermen — a pall of doom is cast over the film. Minutes later, our fears come true when another young woman (the protagonist’s sister) tries to commit suicide. Even more disturbing is to see the body of a young woman landing on a car after falling from the top of a hospital building. It's heartbreaking but also surprising that the young woman's father decides to let the case rest without even bothering to listen to Gana. However, Gana will not let it go and he decides to connect all the dots to find out why not only his sister but also several other young women go missing and when they regain consciousness, they find themselves in a hospital.
Aswathama sticks to a template similar to Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas' Rakshasudu but doesn’t drum up the same urgency. From a structural perspective, it is an eccentric story filled with cardboard characters. The film is shot decently, but the screenplay is predictable and filled with glaring plot holes. It moves at a decent pace, but hardly allows us to invest in any aspect of the narrative. The film rests squarely on the shoulders of its protagonist to make up for its many shortcomings.
I wonder how the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which usually clamps down heavily on gruesome violence, has cleared this film with U/A certificate, despite the way it glorifies violence and brutal killings.
Shaurya, who turns story writer with this film, might seem like an amateurish storyteller, but he has got talent when it comes to scripting a refreshing storyline and creating a look for his film. The young actor, who was seen in boy-next-door looks in his earlier films, has reinvented himself in a serious role and has worked more on his looks, body language, and physique here. The story is inspired by true incidents and I must say Shaurya is at home donning the hats of a lead actor and writer at once.
Jisshu Sengupta takes centre-stage with a spine chilling performance as the unhinged antagonist, whose pathological behaviour to impregnate women finds him a place on the list of Telugu cinema's most creepy psychopaths.
Mehreen doesn’t get much scope to stamp her identity in this film, though she looks at ease in the songs. Newcomer Sargun Kaur Luthra makes a confident debut in her brief role. The other actors only have perfunctory roles designed to help Naga Shaurya achieve his goal.
Ghibran’s background score elevates the film to an extent, and the action sequences, consisting of fistfights and kicks, composed by Anbarivu, stand out. But editing by Garry could have been crisper.
Overall, Aswathama is a tough watch and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It will take quite a while to get some scenes out of your head. And for all that, it still comes up short as a thriller.