Director Kodi Ramakrishna tries to fill the film with too many elements leaving little room for a proper story

Review Despite bringing late superstar Vishnuvardhan back on screen Nagarahavu disappoints
Features Cinema Friday, October 14, 2016 - 14:01

If you must watch “Nagarahavu”, you have to watch it the way I did – at a ridiculously early morning showing in a theatre filled to capacity with Vishnuvardhan fans. 

Telugu filmmaker Kodi Ramakrishna certainly hit on a blockbuster idea when he decided to resurrect the late Kannada superstar, the Sahasa Simha, through digital effects for a cameo in the film.

The whistling, hooting and thunderous applause began almost as soon as the lights went off, and every brief shot of Vishnuvardhan's was accompanied by mass dancing and celebration. And certainly Ramakrishna seems to have known just how to market the film. The opening titles give you plenty of Vishnuvardhan teasers, and a tribute song featuring "Challenging Star" Darshan amps up the excitement even further.

Once the credits roll by and the film kicks off with the introduction of Diganth though, you can see the audience simmer down and get impatient for the true moment of Vishnuvardhan’s appearance. And who can blame them. The main body of the film, after all, makes the waiting moments quite difficult to bear.

“Nagarahavu” is an episode in a long battle between good and evil, one in which Ramya plays a warrior of yore reincarnated as a snake woman, and out to stop the bad guys from laying their hands on a divine artifact of great power. Now, as Ramya says in one of her pre-release interviews, “You don’t really look for logic in these  films.”

So we don’t really ask questions when we find out that the artifact of power, which has recently been found by archeologists is being given away as the prize for a music competition. Many of the other plot points similarly stretch logic, but the point of a devotional/mythological film is faith, not reason, so we’ll leave those dozens of plot-holes alone.

Despite that, there are severe problems with the film. The chief of these is that Ramakrishna can’t seem to decide the hierarchy of his villains, and whether their nature should be comical or diabolical. The result is that the film struggles with building any narrative tension into the plot, since the comic and the tragic trip over each other and muddle the way.

The basic issue with the plot is that it tries to fit in too many pointless scenes rather than focus on a few longer ones of a higher narrative quality. The result is that the story keeps leaping around without letting the viewer absorb the ongoing action.

There’s also a problem with the cast, particularly with that of Diganth in the lead. The young actor indulges in too many histrionics, and overplays many scenes where a little more restraint could have made him believable. His attempt to deliver even regular dialogues like punchlines is particularly problematic.

Ramya, on the other hand, manages to show some skill, even though the script doesn’t give her much room to do anything besides stare in wide-eyed anger and proclaim things in a grand, divine voice. It’s a pity because there is a suggestion late in the film that the divine and the human are conflicted in her character when she falls in love with Diganth, but this idea is disposed of almost before it’s even articulated.

And so we finally arrive at the moment everybody has sat through for more than two hours of run-time – Vishnuvardhan’s appearance. While the graphics are of a better quality than expected, one feels slightly cheated because little of the cameo actually involves seeing the late actor close up. Hence you are left wondering why the role needed a digital version of Vishnuvardhan, except to get hardcore fans of the actor to buy tickets. For anyone expecting to properly relive the actor’s presence on screen, it’s a great disappointment.


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