Here is yet another attempt to mix fact and fiction to dish out a suspense thriller with a rom-com flavour. Director Chandoo Mondeti comes with an interesting topping called science but this smattering of science doesn't salvage an otherwise pedestrian story-telling exercise.
Karthik (Nikhil) is a medico who doesn't believe in walking the beaten path. He is curious about things that mystify others. By chance, he ends up camping in Subramaniapuram, the temple town where the Subramanyeswara Swamy Temple has been shut down for a year in the belief that it is willed by the divine. Whoever tries to uncork the mystery dies due to snake bite, apparently because the divine wills to continue to punish. Karthik's sceptical mind dares to explore the forbidden world and in his mission, he has the helping hand of the divine, unbeknownst to him.
Coming to this genre, the overdone idea of characterizing the protagonist as a sceptic to begin with is an yet-to-be-discarded tradition. The element of hypnotizing animals sounds new but that's all. The climax presents a criminal angle to unravel which Karthik doesn't have to use either brain or brawn.
Given the run time of a mere 118 minutes, the fact that first part of the second half doesn't seem to be in a hurry almost foretells the fact that a sort of lazy narration is about to come. Who wants to watch Swathi Reddy in the role of a father-fearing, tradition-bound girl (that too with she falling flat in the act), not least because she has always been seen in the role of a game-changer or the like? Who wants to watch all the endless buffoonery involving the funny sidekicks as if it were a campus film mainly? Nikhil's character of a guy who doesn't like to go by the rules is impressively portrayed here and there, but his character refuses to take off and evolve from that. There should have been a subplot or two to have the character solve a jigsaw puzzle with intelligence, even as his destiny of being the Chosen One by the divine is played up appropriately to appeal to the average viewer.
Some of the episodes entertain, especially the scenes involving Swathi and Nikhil, the latter believes that Swathi is his Lucky Mascot. The paradox of a sceptical mind who shuns the imperceptible as superstition even while attributing the good things that happen in his life to the special girl could have been invoked, showing the protagonist seeing the divine hand himself before the climax. Instead, there are the mundane scenes like a comedian being made fun of. Shankar Melkote, an amusing principal, getting him to to the place is anything but imaginative.
Rao Ramesh seems the most miscast here. One finds him either going over-board or failing to offer a distinct modulation to convince us in such roles. Tanikella Bharani and Jayapraksh get to play short roles.
Nikhil has a good screen presence here and he is getting more and more confident by the day. He looks convincing in most of the scenes and the director scratching the surface is a blessing for an actor who is not known to have a knack for intensity. Swathi disappoints in a role that doesn't see her being a natural. It's a torture to see her playing a father-fearing girl, who is reticent and remotely chirpy.
The technical departments did a good job, especially Shekar Chandra's BGM and the cinematography. These two elements lend a rich texture to this film. A bit of extra technique from the director's side could have made 'Karthikeya' a slick film to root for.
Verdict: A suspense thriller that comes with a lazy narration. Once watchable.
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