The lull period continues over the weekend as I have got myself to fill in the gaps with films that I missed out from last year. With that, I finished watching the new Telugu film Mangalavaaram which is streaming on Hotstar. And quite honestly, my main reason to opt for this film was because the maker of this film had previously made the terrific Telugu film RX100. Ajay Bhupathi had a style of keeping cards to himself while narrating the story of RX100. He did play on the perceptions of the audience so well before introducing a monumental twist at the end to flip the narrative on its head. Mangalavaaram did seem to be that film too with people raving the final 30 minutes of the film(without revealing any spoilers before I ventured into the film). And so with very little to watch over the weekend, I decided to strike off Mangalavaaram from my watchlist. So then, does Mangalavaaram manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
This is the section that I usually begin with a little summary of the film but for the sake of not giving out spoilers, I shall keep even the basic premise of Mangalavaaram under wraps. And I must say that the story even from the concept point of view is pretty good with the right elements of shock to keep you invested in the drama. The core concept is unique even though the situations created around it may have been explored in the recent past but the story as a whole is impressive. But it is the screenplay standing at almost 150 minutes that lacks coherence while I did get a feeling that the writing was manipulative as well, introducing twists for the sake of it. And hence the screenplay and the haphazard execution of the drama didn’t quite allow a good story to translate on celluloid.
The drama opens with the introduction of children being a part of a village who worships the Mahalaxmi Goddess, and instantly when there is a mythological flavour to the drama, I am interested. You could feel the tension in the air as there are characters introduced through the lens of the children while the drama abruptly halts and jumps to a futuristic timeline. The villagers continue to have faith in Goddess Mahalaxmi while a parallel investigation begins following the untimely demise of a couple of folks from the village. As the investigation is carried out, a couple of more bodies are found thus setting up things for an interesting whodunnit. But I must say that while the drama is watchable, I did not get the high that I was expecting from the narrative.
The proceedings are decent but way too scattered for my liking, and this had more to do with the screenplay branching out across various directions at the same time. So there was a hint of horror sprinkled in while masking the drama as a whodunnit that honestly felt like neither. The buildup was decent but the tone of the drama was a little faulty especially because the writers did not fully utilize the atmospherics of the drama, something that was done so well in the Telugu film Virupaksha. The extended flashback may have seemed to be fine on paper but what that did was eliminate the building tension in the drama on the current timeline which did not quite sit well with me. Even the sensitive issue being addressed lacked a solid justification in terms of the actions of a particular character.
A lot has been said about the final 30 minutes of the film wherein the film throws in multiple twists and turns in the drama. But I must say that while the twists are decent, some just felt way more manipulative to allow the writing to reach from point A to point B. The drama lacked the coherence here which was further exposed during the staging of the drama where the focus was on getting past the multiple twists as opposed to the twists creating an impact for the user. Even the revelations were half-baked which didn’t quite come together at the end. Overall, the patchy screenplay ensures that the impact of the drama is diluted.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are adequate but a little too cringe worthy at times for my liking. I wonder if a sensitive issue that was addressed in the film required a slightly lower tone of lines although I do understand that the setup is of a village. So the dichotomy of the situation withstanding, the justification may just be in place(without generalizing anyone in particular). The music is alright, so is the BGM but atleast a couple of the songs do hamper the flow of the drama. The cinematography is good while trying its best to capture the vibe of the drama. The editing was slightly patchy while disrupting the flow of the drama at a few places. Director Ajay Bhupathi misses the mark with his execution this time. While the world building that he resorts to is fair, the revelations lacked coherence and staging which was a red mark in the report card of the director.
The performances are decent by the ensemble cast. Priyadarshi and Ravindra Vijay as the doctor are nicely understated and manage to impress. Shravan Reddy as Vamsi, Shri Tej as Guruja and Chaitanya Krishna as Prakasam are alright. Divya Pillai as Rajeshwari and Nandita Swetha as Maaya are decent as well. Payal Rajput as Shailu definitely puts her best foot forward while internalizing her pain pretty well. Her character however needed a little more screen time to fully invest in her. Nevertheless, Payal’s performance cannot be questioned wherein she is quite impressive.
Mangalavaaram boasts of a good storyline but the staging and execution leaves a lot to be desired thus making it an above average drama. Available on Hotstar.