‘Ardha Shatabdham’ is now streaming on Aha. In this section, we are going to review the latest OTT release.
Set in the early 2000s in a Telangana village, Karthik Rathnam plays a young man named Krishna. He has mooned over Pushpa (Krishna Priya) for ages. The girl is the daughter of Ramanna (Sai Kumar), a former Maoist. When caste faultlines come to the fore and rear their ugly head in the village, a bevy of characters (Naveen Chandra plays a sub-inspector, Raja Ravindra plays a strongman, Subhalekha Sudhakar plays a politician, while Ajay plays an SP) have a stake in the destiny of the lead pair.
After ‘Care Of Kancharapalem’ and ‘Gods Of Dharmapuri’, Karthik Rathnam gets to play a rustic role. He shows his acting range to an extent and does an okayish job at pulling off the role. Krishna Priya could have enacted the emotions better.
The film belongs more to Naveen Chandra and Sai Kumar than the female lead. The latter delivers his style of dense dialogue. One feels the former is a bit over the top. Pavithra Lokesh as the male lead’s widowed mother is routine. Aamani as the heroine’s mother is not as interesting as she was in ‘Chaavu Kaburu Challaga’. Raja Ravindra and Ajay don’t make an impact. Sudhakar is at his usual self as a politician.
Nawfal Raja AIS’s music is prolific for a movie that is not even two hours long. There are one too many songs packed in the first half. The composer makes the cut, especially with the Sid Sriram-crooned melody. But the BGM is found wanting. The cinematography passes muster for a direct OTT release. One would have had higher expectations from a theatrical release.
Writer-director Rawindra Pulle tells the story of a deeply divided village and how the dominance of caste fanatics affects various lives, especially of a naive lover boy. The characters in the village are not given a proper grounding in the story. As a result, when the bloody day comes, they come across as cardboard characters.
What is the bloody day? Well, there comes a fated day when a series of killings ensue in the village. It’s when we realize how delicate the social equations in the village are. There are powerful men who are mad about honour and caste supremacy. Then there are victims who are helpless. The film tells their varied stories in quite a plain manner.
The love story dominates the space in the first half. Therefore, the story had to be narrated in a soulful and non-cliched way. ‘Ardha Shatabdham’ falls flat on both the counts.
There comes an inflection point when caste riots are triggered. The BGM, the action, the performances – everything had to come together to create a cathartic experience. It doesn’t happen. The BGM is inconsistently intense. Anji’s action choreography lacks the punch. And the acting is somewhat hilariously bland.
Naveen Chandra’s character lacks dynamism and it’s as if he doesn’t fathom the gravity of the situation playing out in the village. The love story is full of stock scenes.
‘Ardha Shatabdham’, at about 115 minutes, could have been a moving tale of how innocent lives are affected by caste-based fanaticism. It fritters away the opportunity.