I always have a soft spot for arthouse, independent and experimental films. I also find debut works interesting. Seeing this is Amazon Prime, I decided to give it a try. Like the usual way of watching the film, I didn’t read any reviews nor watch the trailer before watching this film. I wanted to taste this dish with a clean palate. So did I enjoy this film? Read on to know my honest review.
Story, Frames & Score
The story happens one night when Ashiq is driving to deliver an unknown package. While driving, he is telling a story to his son who wants a horror story during bedtime but the storytelling keeps interrupted because of various calls from different callers. Suddenly, he gets a call from his sister who is in Bangalore for an interview. From the call, he comes to know that her sister is being followed by some unknown men and is apparently in danger based on her scream before the call gets disconnected. Ashiq, 400km away had nothing to do to save his sister but make frantic calls here and there.
The film has a simple premise. The story starts with an eerie vibe during Ashiq and his son’s conversation then it diverts into a thriller mood as the story progresses. Most of the elements of the film like the story, the plot, and characters are presented through phone calls. We come to know Ashiq’s unhealthy marital relationship, his debt, lies, and illegal transactions through his conversations. However, it does not provide a solid character profile for Ashiq.
The screenplay is able to control the audience’s emotions through its straightforward narrative. It uses a minimalist presentation of the story, characters, and plot. What I like about minimalist films is the power of abstraction. It gives out small details and the rest is left for the viewers’ imagination. This for me is the strength of Bannerghatta, kudos to the duo Arjun Prabhakaran and Gokul Ramakrishnan. It creates a lingering tension throughout the film making the audience keep on guessing what happened, what is happening, and what will happen in the end.
For almost an hour, only one man can be seen on the screen and that is Ashiq, the protagonist. Other characters are just voices but they had defined Ashiq’s character. Some are introduced at the climax but they are all cardboard characters. Karthik Ramakrishnan, who carried the whole film in his shoulder shows rawness in his characterization of Ashiq. His rendition of thrilling scenes is great but lacks depth during emotional scenes.
Music, Frames, & Direction
The frame is terrific. As most of the scenes are set in the moving vehicle, dolly and truck shooting used by Binu are commendable. The close-up shot frames Ashiq’s honest expressions of helplessness, despair, fear, and anger. The dimly lit night road as a backdrop sets the mysterious tone for the film. Without a single song, the BGM helps establish the eerie tone of the film. Emotions in some scenes are elevated by the original score of Reejo Chakalakkal. More so, the loud ringtone escalates the thrill especially during the climax.
The 80-minute film is tightly edited by Pareekshith but it fails to deliver the enthralling story the trailer promised (I watched the trailer after I finished the movie for the sake of writing this review). The climax was not given proper precedent so it falls short in delivering a seat-edge thrill. I understand the aim of creating a shocking twist towards the end, however, I think it’s premature and lacks details. The foot chase could have been better if slowmo and blurring are reduced. Nevertheless, debutant director Vishnu Narayanan should be praised for his dauntless experiment with a different narrative.
While this film may be a blurry mix of genres, its overarching theme is the importance of family. No matter how dark or bad one person can be he will do and sacrifice anything for his/her family. Bannerghatta streaming on Amazon Prime is a good watch for those looking for unconventional narratives.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.