Krishnamma Review: A well-intentioned but underwhelming crime-drama

Krishnamma Review: A well-intentioned but underwhelming crime-drama

Satyadev delivers a commendable performance in this earnest crime-drama that comes up short due to its predictable tropes and treatment
Krishnamma(2 / 5)

At one point in Krishnamma, Bhadra (Satyadev) questions the flawed yardsticks on which society anoints its gatekeepers. He ponders how empathy and humanity become the least-important factors in decisions made by the upholders of law when they deal with fellow humans. This moment arrives rather late in the film. By now, we have witnessed the smouldering anger and frustration of our protagonists and it hits a raw nerve in us, going beyond the realm of its story, and reaching out to us with its universal anguish. There are many such moments in Krishnamma, where debutant writer-director VV Gopala Krishna convinces us that his heart is in the right place. Alas, the film falls prey to its predictability and lack of efficient craftsmanship.

Set in the mid-2000s against the backdrop of Vijayawada, Krishnamma tells the story of three inseparable friends, Bhadra, Koti (Laxman Meesala), and Shiva (Krishna Burugula), whose personalities are spread across the spectrum of moral righteousness. While Bhadra and Koti do not mind an occasional petty crime to make ends meet, Shiva remains clearly abhorrent of their vices without letting it affect their friendship. Their bonding rings true, and the film spends a lot of time establishing the friendship among these three men and establishing the milieu in which they occupy a small space. Gopala Krishna also captures the town of Vijayawada and its ambience with a lot of colour and life. The backdrop later becomes a key element in deciding the fate of its primary characters.

The biggest problem with Krishnamma is the uneven emotional beats of its narrative. This is clearly a story of injustice and retribution, but the film never manages to strike a sweet balance between the two. When Bhadra and his friends land in trouble, Gopala Krishna keeps on building the tension for a prolonged duration, which gets exasperating after a point. In these portions, Krishnamma spends too much time focusing on the Machiavellian evil of the police and legal system involved, ignoring the emotional plight of the three young men whose sanity here is at stake. A story about wronged lives ends up becoming a story about wrongdoers, and the film never recovers from this narrative choice.

To add to the injury, the protagonists’ journey towards retribution is treated with a frustrating amount of haste. The director bundles up the much-awaited emotional payoff in a four-minute montage. On one level, it is almost admirable that the film doesn’t prolong its action sequences, which had great potential for violence—the audience-pampering kind. At the same time, the film needed these payoffs to really register and stay with us, instead of merely passing by. 

Rating: 2 stars

Director: V V Gopala Krishna

Cast: Satyadev, Athira Raj, Nanda Gopal, Laxman Meesala, Krishna Burugala

Above everything else, Krishnamma remains a predictable story at its core. While the first half and second half of the film differ in their tonality, what’s common in both of these segments is their use of conventional tropes. Gopala Krishna wants to make a statement on social injustice at a broader level, but is not equipped with writing tools unique or inventive enough to put his point across engagingly. He tries to build a level of intrigue by throwing in a red herring early on in the film, making us privy to a rather brutal crime at the hands of Bhadra, only to give away the big reveal before the interval mark.

Also, Gopala Krishna doesn’t tie all the loose ends of his screenplay. Early on, we are introduced to a single mother (Archana Shastry) whom Bhadra gets emotionally attached to. However, we are never told what happens to her after Bhadra goes to prison, or how she deals with it. Krishnamma often feels fragmented in its narrative, largely because of its failure to neatly tie in all the subplots.

Amidst all the missteps and tumbles, Satyadev delivers a stellar performance that keeps the film on its feet. He brings a starry aura to his part, while also lending it a raw vulnerability. Underneath all his vices, Bhadra is a man dealing with the wounded past of growing up as an orphan. So naturally, he cannot contain himself when Meena (Athira Raj) calls him a brother and a part of her family. Satyadev captures Bhadra’s sense of overwhelm here with great finesse, reminding us that despite all their misguided energy, these young men are human and equally deserving of our empathy. Krishnamma, despite its noble intentions, fails to carry this very sense of poignance throughout. 

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