It is a Monday and the start of a another week but I still have a few leftovers from the weekend. With that, I finished watching the new Telugu show Dhootha which is streaming on Amazon Prime. In the weekend wherein the world was divided on Animal, a film that has garnered a tremendous opening, I decided to give this Telugu series a go as well! And I had two reasons for the same. One was the filmmaker involved, Vikram Kumar, the man behind a terrific thriller 13B which till date remains one of the most unique thrillers involving horror elements. The second and big reason was Naga Chaitanya who has been brilliant as an actor, and I wished to see how he would cope in the longer format of cinema. As far as the longer format of cinema is concerned with respect to the webseries, the industries from down South haven’t quite cracked it as much as they have in the shorter format of films. The quality of story telling, surprisingly so, has been far better in the Hindi space with only a handful of shows standing out from down South. That said, we all know the prowess of the filmmakers from South to turn the tables around and Dhootha presented the viewers with that one opportunity. So then does Dhootha manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Dhootha follows the story of a journalist who begins encountering mysterious newspaper puzzles and articles predicting the death of people around him. What is the mystery behind it and would he be able to stop it? The story here has a great concept combining the thriller elements with supernatural elements with an underlying theme that holds its relevance even today with respect to the media. The media in this country is nothing short of a joke and actual journalism that used to take place is now only reduced to garnering numbers and TRPs, which is a sad reality. And the story taps into this aspect as well. The screenplay standing at 8 episodes of roughly 40 odd minutes does make for a compelling thriller, however the story ought to have been wrapped up inside 6 episodes. I did get a feeling that the writing runs a little thin at certain places that slackens the pacing of the show.
The drama gets off to a flyer with the writers using a prelude featuring the protagonist that unfolds at a later timeline on the show but setting the ball rolling really well for the events to follow. In that sequence, the makers play with the atmospherics really well while preparing the audience for the elements of a thriller and horror, both prevalent in equal measures. Soon the events cut to the beginning of the show(as per the timeline of the show) wherein you are introduced to the protagonist who is shown to be a journalist. On his way back from an event, he gets hold of a piece of puzzle on a newspaper clipping that indicates the death of his pet dog in a car crash. Eventually the events do transpire and that kick starts this thriller on such a high! But following the events of the first episode which was twisted, there is a slight dip in the proceedings.
The writers had the momentun to continue with the events on the similar lines as the newspaper clipping. But a minor diversion involving the investigation of a man just took away the tension from the drama to a certain extent. Had the focus been solely on the protagonist with the investigation only being played at the background, the impact of the drama would have heightened. Having said that, you are invested in the journey of the protagonist and his equation with other characters on the show, some of which are shocking and twisted. As the can of worms is slowly peeled off, the drama gets back on track with the stakes being raised with the increase in body counts. Even the atnospherics are very well tapped into, that exude a layer of mystery surrounding the drama.
The entire flashback sequence did paint a horrific picture but ideally I would have liked to delay the flashback up until the very end. Alternately, a timeline from the past could have treaded in parallel to the main plot, something that would have also kept the mystery alive. But once the flashback had ended, I wished for a little more urgency in the drama in terms of wrapping up the tale, given that the cat was now out of the bag. Yes, there were certain ways in which the writers linked the past to the present but the core mystery had already been revealed by then and so the show could have been wrapped up faster, perhaps. I even found the finale act a little too dramatic for my liking even though the messaging was absolutely relevant and spot on. Overall, the screenplay is decently well penned and it does keep the viewers on tenterhooks for most parts of the drama despite a few flaws.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are decently well penned with a few gems along the way waiting to be discovered. The BGM does create the right kind of ambience for the drama while also heightening the proceedings at various junctures in the screenplay. The cinematography is good as well, capturing the atmospherics and vibe if the drama through some good frames. The editing is decent and it does enough to keep your interests alive in the drama. Director Vikram Kumar does a good job here in playing around with the atmospherics really well while creating several intriguing moments along the way. The director elevates the drama by hiding a few writing flaws along the way.
The performances are pretty good by the ensemble cast. In the interest of keeping the mystery alive, I shall not be naming characters in my review while only mentioning the actors’ names. Tharun Bhasker and Raja Goutham are outstanding in their respective roles and both manage to shine. Sruthy Jayan, Ayush Agarwal and Pasupathy have their moments to shine, as do Anish Kuruvilla, Jeevan Kumar, Rohini and Tanikella Bharani. Gnaneshwari Kandregula is top notch here and does an impressive job. Kamakshi Bhaskarla has a solid screen presence and she does a good job as well.
Ravindra Vijay is menacing in his character and there is a streak of madness that he puts to great use here. Chaitanya Garikipati is sincere and earnest. Prachi Desai does a swell job with her character despite a limited screen time. I really wish to watch more of her going forward. Parvathy is assertive and quite convincing as the cop investigating the case. Her towering screen presence is on full display here. Priya Bhavani Shankar is unassuming in her character and she plays out the layers in her character superbly. Naga Chaitanya is the star of the show and he puts forth his vulnerability wonderfully well in his character who is quite edgy as well. The fear on his face is palpable and that adds further layers to his character in what was another winner of a performance!
Dhootha is a decently compelling thriller with good performance and a relevant message at the end that makes for a good one-time watch. Available on Amazon Prime.