Saakini Daakini Movie Review: A fairly enjoyable buddy-cop thriller
Sudheer Varma’s spin on buddy-cop comedies is easily watchable but that's where it draws the line
The pandemic, coupled with the popularisation of streaming services, gave birth to a modern film genre. Disrespect to its creators withstanding, it is 'films that can be played on TV while you scroll through the feed on your mobile'. Unfortunately, the pandemic’s influence on me has been such, that I am now processing and assessing a few films in the theatre through these lenses, sans the mobile usage, however, to maintain the theatre etiquette. Honestly, some films are just fine even if you watch them with a mobile in your hand. Saakini Daakini is the latest addition to the list of films that make for a fun and easy viewing on a lazy weekend. The blame is partially on the film too. Its simplicity and measured intensity, even during high moments, never quite demand your complete attention, and nothing is lost in translation through perfunctory viewing either.
An official remake of the Korean action comedy, Midnight Runners, the Telugu film changes the gender of the protagonists and it is a choice that works in its favour considering it is linked to the crime at the center of the narrative. Two trainees at a police academy, the energetic, street-smart Shalini (Nivetha Thomas) and the reticent, sophisticated Damini (Regina Cassandra), are always at war with each other and the film spends 45 minutes charting the Tom & Jerry dynamic they share and how they eventually foster a friendship. This set-up is not completely juvenile, and, in fact, it is pretty easily watchable—the recurring retorts between Shalini and a senior officer (Prudhviraj) do put a smile on your face, if not make you burst out in laughter. The score is, for the lack of a better word, basic and reminds you of amateur short films on YouTube from the early 2010s. It is not exactly the music that is to be blamed here, but its placement. It feels like stock music of the respective mood of the scene is played in quick succession, there is one for comedy, one for sadness, one for, so on and so forth.
When we have had enough of the cuteness, the film finally introduces the conflict in form of a kidnap that the duo witnesses and then set out to get to the bottom of. While it might not exactly transform into the edge-of-the-seat thriller that the filmmaker aims for, the efforts of the duo to track down the perpetrators and uncover the bigger picture do keep hinting at the gravity of the situation they are facing and keeps the tension afloat to an extent. A couple of action sequences, one set in a restaurant—played to the sound of a cricket match—and the climactic showdown between the duo and the antagonist (Kabir Duhan Singh, pulling off his stock performance) are nicely choreographed, performed and shot well. I particularly enjoyed the final slow-mo sequence that uses the water and smoke to stylise the action. There is also an effort to stylise the scenes with neon lighting and thankfully, it doesn't end up being showy.
Faster editing, however, could have invigorated the restaurant sequence; the fastness of the actors’ moves and the length of shots seem disconnected. While swift editing in modern action movies is often the subject of criticism, I felt some sequences in Saakini Daakini could have benefited largely from a faster editing pattern, considering the characters are supposed to be in a rush for a substantial part of the narrative. This chaos and the urgency, however, are barely registered.
Regina and Nivetha are convincing in their roles and land their punches and kicks effortlessly, with the latter benefiting from a likable character.
Saakini Daakini is one of the films in which everything is measured; comedy, action, violence, sadness, and pathos, among other things wholesome films tend to constitute. It has all of these but they are all deliberately limited, refraining you from investing your full attention. The film does make for fun yet forgettable viewing though.