Review: Play Back

‘Play Back’, starring relatively unfamiliar faces in key roles, is currently playing in theatres. Let’s find out what is good and what is bad about the film. 

Story: In 2019, a male TV journalist (played by Dinesh Tej) starts investigating the murder of a man and a woman near his place in Hyderabad. The murders happened 26 years ago. Within days, a woman (played by Ananya Nagalla) from 1999 starts interacting with him over a land phone. How are the man and woman related to each other? How is the woman connected with the murders? Is there more than what meets the eye in this? Answers to these questions are found in the second half. 

Performances & Technical aspects: The film has got not-so-captivating performances. While Dinesh Teja and Ananya get a large screen space, they don’t create a solid impact. The latter looks incapable of showing tension. At times, her mild and subdued voice becomes a minus. Murthy, the senior journalist, gets to play an important role. Arjun Kalyan, who plays a lover boy, looks convincing in the period episodes. TNR is good in a negative role.  Kamran’s background music is so-so. The cinematography is adequate in some portions but is found lacking inventiveness in others.  

Analysis: Director Hari Prasad Jakka borrows from the concept of two timelines finding an intersection in this drama with a sci-fi flavour. Apparently, he is inspired by a hundred foreign films whose concept is similar. He places a crime thriller within the context of “cross-time connection”. Netflix’s 2017 drama ‘Dark’, among others, was also about the meeting of different timelines. ‘Play Back’ has got its share of engaging scenes. The scenes which establish the 1993 character coming in touch with the 2019 character in a bizarre turn of events raise curiosity. There is also a place for sentimentality, besides a love affair or two. However, the film lacks consistency and becomes a generic murder thriller with the key difference that the protagonist toys with the prospect of changing the past. But this could also have been the story of an omnipotent hero saving a damsel in distress in the present like a regular film hero. So, the concept of “cross-time connection” hasn’t been leveraged fully here.  The characters lack urgency in their body language. The editing should have been racy. Somewhere, the male protagonist describes the happenings as crazy. No, it’s not “crazy” but surreal; the characters should have been conscious of the surrealism. Instead, they behave as if they are in a tourist place where an unexpected set of events unfolds. Even the phone calls are staged in a bland way.  The motif of the land phone reminds one of the recent Netflix release ‘Andhagaaram’.  

Verdict: ‘Play Back’ is a watchable thriller. There are some really boring segments, though. 

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