There are some marvellous performances from the actors, Saiju Kurup, Priyanka Nair and Kottayam Ramesh in particular.

Antakshari Poster
Flix Review Friday, April 22, 2022 - 10:39

This much was clear from the trailer: Antakshari will be a thriller, will be scary, and will have some fun elements because there is a policeman in it who likes to play Antakshari all the time. Antakshari is a game of music where a player sings a song and the next player has to sing one that begins with the last letter of the first song. The fun is however short-lived, and horror takes over, as the game itself becomes a scary experience, and many parallel stories seem to be told. But what began really well appears to lose focus, leaving too many loose ends, despite some marvellous performances from the actors: Saiju Kurup, Priyanka Nair and Kottayam Ramesh in particular.

Director Vipin Das sets the tone of the film in the very beginning. In a random living room, a young woman and her parents are watching television when the girl leaves with her phone to make sneaky calls. Sensing the familiar settings of a horror film – dark and deserted exteriors of the house, convenient silences that can be broken by a sudden noise to send shock waves down the poor viewer – you wish the girl had simply walked to another room. From the girl’s story, we move to a little boy’s – beginning innocently in daylight in the company of other boys in a village. This one is more detailed, though the boy is more or less silent, and you realise this is the backstory that will make sense much later.

Within ten minutes, you are already in the third story – and you reach the police station with the singing cop. Duly, Saiju Kurup appears, pleasant and smiling. The station scenes are witty, and immediate curiosity is built for Saiju’s character, Das. The fun element is however pushed aside, as the film picks up on the thread of caste it had begun weaving in the little boy’s story. In Das’s station is a subordinate officer, older than him, who keeps muttering about having to work under a man from a marginalised caste. Kottayam Ramesh pulls this role off extremely well and remains hateful till the end, perpetually disgruntled, snapping at everyone and without an ounce of mercy.

From the station, the story shifts to Das’s home, which despite the tense atmosphere of the film is really cosy, especially the long verandah upfront. Like in a small town, the doors of this house are always open, letting threatening politicians enter the place at night. Das and his little family – Priyanka playing his wife who works as a nurse, and a little girl about 10 years old – play Antakshari at home too, month after month. The politician walks into this singing family and makes his threat – Vijay Babu giving a short, nice performance.

Watch: Trailer of the film

Antakshari is no longer fun for the family, or the audience. After this, every time a song is sung, there is something bad coming. Your curiosity for Das’s character never gets satisfied – why did he develop this music craze, what’s his story? But by then, you are to move with the shifting script – Vipin Das’s – towards other characters. There is for instance a young woman with Afro curls befriending a young man and his sister over guitar and music. There is the cruel step father and the silently suffering mother of the young man. You expect these threads to connect, to make sense at some point. But besides a vague idea, you are left wondering – unless you are in the habit of making elaborate guesses.

And then there is the terror that expectedly unfolds. Remember the first family with the girl on the phone? The terror that began there makes its way to Das’s story. And you hear a man singing songs, but not seen, chasing people, murdering them.

Das the policeman shelves his music and lounges for an investigation with the help of a new cop, played by a wonderful Sudhi Koppa. Binu Pappu, another talented performer, is the no-nonsense senior official (the actor almost getting typecast as a cop). Das seems to work in a very unfriendly environment, with little sympathy coming towards him from any of his colleagues even as his family goes through trauma. The question of caste keeps coming back, not explicitly mentioned, but played out through scornful gestures or comments.

The film manages to maintain the suspense, but it tries to tell too much and fails to do it properly.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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