'AWE', starring an ensemble cast, hit the screens on Friday. Here is our review of the experimental film.
Kali (Kajal Aggarwal) is apparently on the verge of taking a catastrophic decision. A gloomy soul, she is visibly devastated.
A youngster (Eesha Rebba) is waiting for her lover to turn up at a restaurant for her parents to see the person. But when the special one turns up, the parents are shell-shocked.
Priyadarshi plays an incompetent chef who keeps fooling his lady boss (Pragathi). A fish (Nani's voice-over) helps him in cooking stuff, while a tree (Ravi Teja) chips in with naughty remarks as a sympathetic observer. But there comes a moment when the fake chef's humanism is put to test by circumstances.
Avasarala Srinivas plays a dejected soul with a scientific bent of mind. He seeks to invent a contraption that can help him time-travel and meet his dead parents. He is confronted with an identity crisis.
Regina Cassandra plays the girlfriend of a greedy baddie who wants to lay his hands on Rs. 5 crore. At the restaurant where she works, a widower makes an entry with his own quirks. He is yet another disturbed soul in the movie. But when Regina starts seeing a ghost, matters turn horrific for her.
Amidst all this, a kid hurts the ego of Murali Sharma, who plays a self-obsessed magician. He can't stand it if he is told he is not the greatest. He now invites troubles upon himself as a mysterious, unseen magician starts teaching him a lesson.
Nithya Menon plays Dr. Krishnaveni, a psychiatrist who delivers a twist. Devadarshini plays a wheel-chair bound woman who is almost surreal.
How these lives intersect in the climax is what the crux of 'AWE' is all about.
Debutant director Prasanth Varma is on record stating that 'AWE' is not an anthology movie. But it's one. An anthology movie by stealth. In 99 out of 100 movies, the revelation about a key character made in the climax of 'AWE' would be made at the interval, a bit later, or a bit earlier. The revelation would then be followed by a meaty drama. In 'AWE', the audience is expected to pine for everything that the film allegedly offers in retrospect (after watching the climax).
Since 'AWE' is actually a covert omnibus movie, there is only so much that it can offer. If we are clueless till the climax, the filmmaker would think it's a compliment! And it's problematic.
A few of the characters are dreamlike (especially the Murali Sharma-kid track); a few of them are gloomy; one of them faces a moral dilemma. Then there is the Law of Karma in disguise (Butterfly Effect). There is the element of time travel. There is Morse coded-romance. There is an honest take on a particular kind of sexuality. There is a subtle celebration of the Lila of Bhagawan Krishna. There could also be so much that is left unsaid. But, somehow, in terms of cinematic expression, the idiom doesn't seem to work (objectively or subjectively) at several levels.
Avasarala's identity crisis is too psychological. The uncanny sweeper who interacts with Regina is there to concoct a mystery where none exists. The intermixing of crime and horror in a single sub-story should have been avoided. The genre shifts are artificial at times.
The fish-tree-chef track plays to the gallery, with Nani and Ravi Teja (speaking as the tree) referring to their real-life films/dialogues. It borders on the parody. So, the poor fish waiting for its redemption is reduced to a caricature.
The dialogues are unperturbed by the heaviness of the pivot. They play out as if it's business as usual. If many scenes seem to overstay their welcome, it's because they lack profundity.
Had the suspense that is revealed in the climax been told midway through the film, the conflicts within the characters would have given way to an amplified drama.
For a debutant, Prasanth Varma extracts beautiful performances. It would be unfair if Kajal Aggarwal and Nithya Menen walk away with all the limelight. Just because they are stars and readily played unconventional characters, it doesn't mean they are the best in the film. Srinivas Avasarala, Devadarshini, Priyadarshi, the kid, and Murali Sharma are so good. Regina's look is fashionable and she delivers a neat performance as a woman facing an edgy situation. Rohini and others do a good job, too.
Karthik Ghattamaneni's cinematography is multi-coloured. It was a sine qua non for the film. Mark K Robin's music is another asset and the theme song is brilliantly penned. Goutham Nerusu's editing is able.
'AWE' is a crafty anthology movie which relies too heavily on the strength of its climax. Too psychological, too poetic at times. The lengthiness of many scenes makes one say, 'It's more of the same'. Genre shifts were an oversold idea. The performances are praiseworthy. Technical departments put up a solid show.