Naandhi Movie Review: A crime drama that fails to rise above the template
Despite being well-intentioned, Naandhi lacks both the consistency of a courtroom drama and the maturity of a legal procedural
Our movies take pride in educating the viewer about legal issues. Vijay's Sarkar discussed Section 49P of the Conduct of Election Rules. Ayushmann Khurrana's Article 15 tried its best to sensitise the citizenry about the need to practise the constitutional principle of non-discrimination. In the same vein, Naandhi is about Section 211 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with legal recourse available to an individual implicated in a false case. Despite its obvious good intentions, Naandhi lacks both the consistency of a courtroom drama and the maturity of a legal procedural.
A happy life with a beautiful wife beckons Surya Prakash (Allari Naresh), a software engineer. But his dream is shattered by an angry cop (Harish Uthaman) who nabs him in connection with the murder of a politician. Surya is framed in no time, while the media trials aggravate his plight. Five years pass without hope. But when Aadhya (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar), an uncompromising lawyer, comes to his rescue, Surya's hopes are rekindled.
Cast: Allari Naresh, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Harish Uthaman
Director: Vijay Kanakamedala
Writer-director Vijay Kanakamedala deserves appreciation for casting Naresh as a brutalised man who has suffered so much that he gets panic attacks in jail. The film defies the conventions of Telugu cinema insofar as it does away with the concept of a hero, for the first half at least. The ego of the bad cop drives the story.
Grave issues with the storytelling crop up in the second half, though. What starts out as a fairly believable drama is reduced to a run-of-the-mill 'Good smashes Bad' template. Naresh can literally unshackle himself from the clutches of chains and dare the powerful like a typical masala hero. He has got no punchlines (thankfully!) but the biggest weapon in his armour, Section 211, is projected as a magic wand that can outwit and overwhelm the most powerful person around in a jiffy.
This is where the film flaunts its ignorance with pride. In the first half, the criminal justice system is portrayed as vindictive as it is in Vetri Maaran's Visaranai. But, the very same system turns benign and behaves as if it exists solely for the common man in the second half. At one point, Naresh says, "Please don't let criminal elements ruin the justice system like they have the police system." Pray, how does he think he ended up in jail for five years, without a trial, if criminality hadn't crept into the justice system?
Varalaxmi, who is on a roll these days (in the recent Krack, she was enjoyable in a negative role), gives a couple of whistle-worthy moments. Although the courtroom scenes don't pack a punch ("Bring that CCTV footage" and "Listen to these call recordings" are hardly clever), Varalaxmi's performance is a saving grace.
The writing department seems to have had a checklist. Victim wails. Check. Egomaniacal cop can't hide his frustration. Check. Son remembers the father's lines at the funeral. Check. Bad politician makes his cruelness obvious. Check. Subtlety is clearly not the forte of the mainstream Tollywood filmmaker.
Composer Sricharan Pakala rises above the mediocre script and deserves kudos for this. Besides Naresh and Varu, Vinay Varma, Harish Uthaman, and Priyadarshi too deliver nice performances.
Overall, Naandhi is a watchable story of an underdog and a gutsy lawyer. If crime dramas are your thing, this film could work for you.