When a rare crime thriller like Sriram Raghava's Johnny Gaddar was to be remade, the director should have ensured that he got the production values pitch-perfect. Though Kameena is a performance- and plot-driven film to boot, the off key technical values sadly fail to help it scrape through.
The director cherry-picks the right faces for most roles, he adapts the screenplay reasonably well, albeit with glitches here and there. What keeps us glued to the screen from the time Siddhu (introducing Krish) becomes a 'gaddar', is the plot line and, more importantly, most of the performances that are at the right pitch. An aberration is Krish, who doesn't show consistency and sometimes looks deadpan as if he were an actor from an ambitious but down-at-heel Sandalwood potboiler.
Sai Kumar (Dharma), Teja (Asish Vidhyarthi), Kailash (Brahmaji), Shiva (Subbu Raju) and Siddhu (Krish) are conspiring to strike a dubious deal with someone in Orissa. They have got to pool Rs. 5 cr with which they will buy a 'maal' with the aim of selling it off at a higher price so as to make a quick buck. However, danger looms large over them ever since Subbu Raju leaves for Bangalore with the money, in a train. He is found dead and the rest of them are clueless.
An element of understated malevolence as well as a largely unexpressed emotional oeuvre is writ large on the script. What is somewhat unique about this script, is the catastrophe that befalls "the gang", who are loyal towards one another, when they least suspect. Everyone believes he is not on the hit list until the not-so-deliberately-murderous killer snuffs him out in good earnest. Quite distinctly, the bonding is paraded in a subtle manner at unexpected moments, instead of showing characters as wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Although they are driven by their desire to make money big-time, they lust to eliminate the hidden killer in a spirit of avenging.
Sai Kumar is impressive as ever, his intense expressions are always a big plus in films like this one. His baritone is so spot-on that one feels for him when he is vanishing from the script. Brahmaji as the much-chided hubby of Roja (in a good role) deserves praise for his timing. Asish Vidhyarthi is routine. Ravi Babu as Inspector Kalyan is at ease with his role. Subbu Raju doesn't make a mark. The two girls, especially Lekha Washington, prove to be wrong choices.
All said and done, Kameena could have been much better. Firstly, it needed a director with an acute sense of technical finesse, not someone who rests on the virtues of the original and thinks the audience would be least bothered about anything other than the sheer thriller-like quality of the plot.
There was a lame attempt to oscillate between comedy, romance and crime in the first half - something which failed for want of a good screenplay and dialogue.
The music and the cinematography should have been engaging and uplifting.
Verdict: Kameena would have deserved a pat had it been original. For all the imperfect handling, it is a one-time watch