'Bhaagamathie', starring Anushka, Jayaram, Asha Sharat and others in key roles, hit the screens today. Here is our review.
Chanchala (Anushka), an IAS officer, is posted as a personal secretary to Central Minister Eeshwar Prasad (Jayaram). She gets arrested on the charges of murdering people's activist Shakti (Unni Mukundan), her boyfriend, who opposed the commissioning of a project that led to displacement of several villages.
CBI Joint Director Jayanthi (Asha Sharat) suspects foul play in the disappearance of invaluable antiques in the temples visited by Eeshwar Prasad. She decides to interrogate Chanchala at an abandoned bungalow regarding this case. This bungalow, however, is believed to be haunted by an evil spirit named Bhaagamathie.
Chanchala describes Eeshwar Prasad as a paragon of virtues. The CBI is puzzled, though. Further, the investigating team is flummoxed by Chanchala's weird behaviour at nights in the lonesome bungalow. At the interval, she metamorphoses into Bhaagamathie, a wronged queen who died decades ago.
Who is the late queen? How is her story intertwined with the present day happenings in the lives of Chanchala and Eeshwar Prasad? How does the CBI officer join the dots in solving the case of the missing temple antiques? Answers to these questions are found in the second half.
We were told by the makers that the first half will scare us and the second half will bring us to the edge of the seat. If candle flames going on and off on their own can scare you, this is your kind of horror stuff. If Anushka doing a recce of the Bhaagamathie bungalow night after night, putting up a semi-shocked expression on her neat face, can scare you, this is your kind of horror stuff.
Writer-director Ashok G infuses quite a few sub-plots to gloss over a formula vivid in the trailer itself. So, Chanchala keeps on befuddling everybody in the movie (from comedians Dhanraj, Prabhas Sreenu and Vidyullekha Raman to the cops played by Asha Sharat, Murali Sharma and Ajay Ghosh) during her stint at the bungalow. First the servant maid, then the constables, then Murali Sharma, and finally a doctor (played by Thalaivasal Vijay) are frightened inside the bungalow by a Chanchala who is either possessed or on the verge of being snatched away. It's a scare fest for the characters involved.
By and by, through installments, Chanchala's backstory is narrated. She had fallen in love with Shakti, whose fight against a project leads to some unexpected consequences. Politician Eeshwar Prasad is too good to be believable and this becomes clear half-way into the first half. The whole plot of politician-criminal nexus smells of those 1990s era storylines.
The CBI's interrogation of Chanchala is supposed to be the first half's mainstay (apart from those incredibly run-of-the-mill scare fests). The way these interrogation scenes play out could work to an extent in retrospect.
It's not known why Bhaagamathie should reveal her story through Chanchala to that doctor who is there for only one scene. When the doc speaks of a gang rape, one actually starts praying that there is not one more pointless sub-plot. Moments before, Prabhas Sreenu had seen the story of a British-era queen named Bhaagamathie unfold on a screen inside the bungalow. To what end? And yes, there is a 'Mantrikudu' who arrives at the bungalow to speak of a negative spirit. Such a done-to-death element, this.
Madhie's nimble cinematography bring a semblance of heft to the proceedings. His camera angles are interesting. Thaman's background score is another high point; it's not loud and definitely works in some key scenes. Art director Ravindar's bungalow set passes muster. Much of the film takes place indoors and his work was very much crucial.
Anushka once again proves to be a performer par excellence. We see a new shade to her acting prowess in the anti-climax phase in a scene with Jayaram. She is gorgeous when she smiles as a lover girl. Her costumes fit the bill. Jayaram is good, but there is an overdose of him. Asha Sharat and Murali Sharma deliver with confidence. Unni Mukundan is OK. The comedy faces are enjoyable here and there.
Anushka shines with her splendid portrayal of an indefatigable woman. The technical departments put up a first-rate show. A formulaic story that comes with a pseudo-twist in the anti-climax phase. The sincerity of the proceedings should help the film.