There used to be a time when I would be very excited whenever I would hear anything positive about a Telugu film. After all I have been watching and tracking Telugu films for ages now, having seen all kinds of films over the years. But as mentioned in one of my earlier reviews as well, in the recent past my expectation levels have reduced considerably, also I find it hard to get excited whenever I hear of any new Telugu film, thanks to the sharp fall in standards. But despite all this I still try to ensure that I remain committed to viewing and reviewing Telugu films as part of my endeavor to keep myself fully updated on regional cinema. Of course once in a while a small/medium film like Bale Bale Magadivoy or Nenu Sailaja does come along which manages to put a smile on our faces, managing to defy the odds and surprise the audience and trade. But then these are exceptions and can never be predicted.
Perhaps that might be the reason why I didn’t really jump with joy when I initially heard of Ravikanth Perepu’s Kshanam. True, the posters looked appealing no doubt, the trailer promising as well, but then I wasn’t really going to buy the bait easily, or so I thought :). Released in A.P and Telangana along with places outside like Bangalore and Chennai on 26th February, the film got off to a thunderous response from the critics and the audiences alike. Needless to say I was quite intrigued by the overall positive verdict that the film was gathering; hence I was happy that I could get to watch the film in a sneak preview in Mumbai a few days later. After all there were various questions on my mind by then, was it truly made in a production budget of around 1-1.2 crores? If true then does the film appear impoverished due to budget constraints or does it manage to make you forget that aspect completely while watching it? Does it genuinely work as a thriller and most importantly is it worth all the hype that it’s been generating? So did I get the answers to my questions? Oh! Yes indeed, but more on that later.
Have you ever been in a relationship which looked “perfect” in every aspect to you? And have you had the misfortune of seeing the relationship breaking up in front of you, while you stood helpless, unable to do anything about it? Does life stop for you or do you pull up your socks and proceed like a true hero, going on to face the next chapter in your life? What if your beloved was to reach out back to you after ages? Would you be able to forget all the hurt and disappointment and manage to talk to the person concerned? Would your heart still stand in the way, making you still feel an emotional attachment of sorts? Would you choose logic over your call of the heart or vice versa? And of course is it still possible to be in love with someone after all these years and all that happened, even if the person concerned wasn’t really at fault for the turn of events? All these and more such questions were on my mind when I was watching Kshanam, if you watch the film perhaps you might understand what I’m really getting to.
Rishi (Adivi Sesh) is an NRI living in the U.S and running his investment banking enterprise after dropping out of medical college. He is yet to get over the disappointment over his break-up with Shweta (Adah Sharma) though it’s been 4 years since it happened. All of a sudden Rishi is startled by a voice message from Shweta, the first time that she’s reached out to him after their break-up. This brings Rishi back to India where to his dismay he finds out that Shweta’s daughter Riya has been kidnapped and now she requests Rishi to help her in finding her daughter. While Rishi is perplexed at the thought of why Shweta has reached out to him for the same and that too after staying away from him for so long, he decides to still go ahead and help her. But the search for her daughter isn’t easy at all, her husband Karthik (Satyadev) seems to show no interest, the police seem to have closed the case file and to top it all there have been no ransom calls at all. Shweta is distraught as she feels all doors have closed upon her. So can Rishi go on to find out what the truth is and bring back Shweta’s missing daughter?
Writers Ravikanth Perepu and Adivi Sesh (he’s written the story and co-written the screenplay) make sure that the tale doesn’t go on predictable lines at any given point throughout its duration. There are a host of characters in the film, most of them adding intrigue and also proving to be of some worth adding to the interesting proceedings. What’s also interesting is that none of the characters are totally black or white, almost everybody is flawed in some way or the other and this makes it more believable and impactful as such. A good thriller can only connect with the audience if the characters make an impression and if the narrative is engrossing enough, leaving the audience hooked all the way. Kshanam manages to do that and does it convincingly indeed, quite impressive to see Ravikanth Perepu manage to do so with his very first film itself. Also the film doesn’t really appear budget strapped as such and comes across as a well-planned, mounted and executed film. For the kind of production budget utilized for the film, the output is more than satisfactory I must add of course.
Shaneil Deo’s cinematography lends the film its edginess in a way that’s unobtrusive. With a run time of 2 hours, the film is of the right duration and the pace never drops; credit for the same certainly to Arjun Shastri and Ravikanth Perepu for their nifty work with the editing. Sricharan Pakala’s BGM works quite well for the film, going in sync with the mood of the film. There are some interesting segments woven into the narrative, like the way Rishi and Shweta’s romance is shown without any of the usual clichés and appearing interesting. Or throwing a red herring of sorts with the African drug dealers involved. The film also benefits with some interesting casting choices. Ravi Varma and Satyadev as the brother-in-law and husband of Shweta are effective, especially the former. It’s wonderful to see Vennela Kishore and Satyam Rajesh in roles that are very different from the usual template comedy stuff that they are seen doing usually. Vennela Kishore as a garage owner with a shady background is quite in his element and pulls of the role quite well. Satyam Rajesh as Chowdhary the daring cop is a total revelation and his character is definitely one of the highlights of the film. Wish filmmakers take a cue from Kshanam and consider Vennela Kishore and Satyam Rajesh for more interesting roles like these.
Anasuya Bharadwaj as the ACP is someone who starts off as just one of the supporting characters, but grows in stature as the tale progresses and she carries off the role with a lot of maturity and conviction. While Adah Sharma isn’t someone who has probably left a great mark with her acting in her earlier films, here as Shweta she manages to look quite convincing, both as the medical student in love with Rishi (but who doesn’t say that aloud) and later as the distraught mother. She does share good chemistry with Adivi Sesh and that quite helps. Adivi Sesh on the other hand has always for some reason appeared as an also ran of sorts for me, he has the looks but I wasn’t sure if he had it in him to make it as a successful solo lead. But whatever doubts I had were totally dispelled in Kshanam as he clearly fits the bill as Rishi, appearing calm and composed or confused and angry as the narrative keeps changing. This is a performance which not only makes him take note of his talent, but should hopefully open up more windows for him.
It’s good to see the producers PVP Cinemas and Matinee Entertainment back the film in the right manner, the kind of distribution and marketing effort being taken is testimony indeed for the kind of focus given to the film. For PVP Cinemas which is more known for backing relatively medium and big budget films this is a welcome departure and Kshanam is a good example of how a small Telugu film can be a game changer of sorts provided it is supported well. Ravikanth Perepu has overall come up with a good thriller which is easily way better than most of the Telugu releases in the recent past. It is also giving a new hope, not just to the industry but also to aspiring filmmakers and of course the audience as well.
Note: Kshanam is releasing in select screens across Mumbai, Pune and Delhi/NCR this Friday (11th March) with English subtitles.