Natyam Movie Review: Interesting, extensive dance sequences, but is that enough?
Natyam exudes honesty, but it's narrated from a script that's too weak
Telugu cinema connection with classical dance dates back to the 1970s. From Siri Siri Muvva (1976) and Sagara Sangamam (1983) to Mayuri (1985) and Swarna Kamalam (1988), mainstream films that incorporate dance as the core of the story have turned out to be massive box office successes. This trend took a backseat in the 90s and 2000s. In 2021, renowned Kuchipudi dancer Sandhya Raju has taken an effort to expand her territory to Telugu cinema with this period dance film, Natyam.
Inspired by true incidents, this film with an unconventional story focuses on the triumphs and trials of classical dancer Sitara (Sandhya Raju).
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The story begins in the present in a fictional village called Natyam, where a young girl, Sitara dreams of performing the story of Kadambari, against the superstitious beliefs of her guru (Aditya Menon). In the process, Sitara falls in love with a city-bred fusion dancer Rohith (Rohith Behal) and some unexpected circumstances compel her to move out of her village. What happens next? Does Sitara accomplish her dream? answers the rest of the film.
Much like the aforesaid films, the real pleasure in Natyam lies in its charming setting, believable characters, and impressive visuals. Natyam is so much about dance that you wonder if it should be called a film at all. The majority of the film’s run time is filled with dance sequences, almost in a competition-like setting. This takes a toll on the film on the whole as the important emotional scenes feels staged akin to a television reality show.
Natyam can't be called a bad film, but it’s not a good film either. It’s the kind of film that keeps you waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever does. The problem with this film is that even though the characters and the story have depth and personality, the pace is so sluggish, and the plot is so scant that it’s hard to become invested in what’s happening.
There’s no element of surprise in its screenplay; and as a result, even though the film is only two hours long, you find yourself exhausted by the end.
Save for the boring romantic track, the film’s first half in fact has a bunch of lovable moments, and the director shows promise in handling these conventional scenes. But, as the film’s second half kicks in, it becomes clear the director had no idea how to end it.
The film has a soothing soundtrack by Shravan Bharadwaj and some of the supporting cast leave an impact, particularly Subhalekha Sudhakar and Bhanupriya, who play ungodly village head and the female lead’s mother respectively.
Sandhya Raju breathes life into her part. But it’s Kamal Kamaraju as Hari Babu -- the son of a dance guru -- who gets the tone right and excels. He delivers a confident performance as a man with no moral compass. But on the contrary Rohith Behal, who plays a fusion dancer, is dull and ineffective.
Overall, Natyam exudes honesty, but it's narrated from a script that's too weak and as a result, the film ends up being a massive misstep.