Sandalwood
The film is about a mother who goes in search of her abducted daughter.
Worth a watch

The glorification of mother’s love as immeasurable and incomparable has found its place in hundreds of films. Devaki takes this route but within the premise of a child abduction case. In their previous outing, multi-lingual actor Priyanka Upendra and director Lohith had delivered a horror thriller, Mummy. This time, they have collaborated for a thriller without the supernatural, but have assured the same edge-of-the-seat experience, set and shot completely in Kolkata.

The storyline is exactly what can be interpreted from the trailer – a mother desperately looking for her missing daughter. Devaki (Priyanka Upendra) is a single parent, who is earning a livelihood in Kolkata. Her 10-year-old daughter Aaradhya (Aishwarya Upendra), who had been to an audition at an FM station, goes missing. Hence, she approaches the police, who as can be expected, ignore her pleas. Enter tough cop Kishore, who also happens to be a Kannadiga. Devaki and Kishore set out in their own ways to trace Aaradhya.

What follows is a Kahaani-like search. Devaki gets to the point right from the very beginning, without dilly-dallying or thrusting unnecessary commercial elements. It then slowly evolves into a true thriller with every clue opening the doors towards a bigger mystery. With every scene, the chase gets bigger, better and more intriguing. Every scene holds the key to unlock the next one.

While the makers have clarified that the movie is not a remake of the Vidya Balan film, it has surely borrowed a few elements from the blockbuster Bollywood film, especially the Kolkata setting. Previously, in Sandalwood, we've had Puneeth Rajkumar’s Natasarvabhowma which was partially set in Kolkata. However, what makes Devaki exceptional is how the makers have brilliantly captured the slice of life of the busy city while keeping the spirit of the film intact.

The movie gets Kolkata better than any other Kannada film, especially the city’s architecture, which fits well with the storyline.Trademark yellow taxis, leisurely trams, congested traffic, the Howrah bridge, claustrophobia-inducing metros, dilapidated brick houses, dingy, narrow streets, red-light areas, and so on blend well with the narration. Initially, you wonder why the story had to be set in Kolkata, but the camerawork absorbs you so much that you forget about the question within a few minutes into the film.

Priyanka Upendra, in a career-best performance, is the showstopper of Devaki and there’s no doubt about it. She makes up for the slow narration with her expressive acting skills. Aishwarya Upendra does well in her debut film. However, her lines could have been written better, except for that one monologue in the climax. Kishore is seamless as a tough cop.

The film scores high on technical aspects. Cinematographer Venu deserves appreciation for showing Kolkata just the way it is – raw, unapologetic, and yet breathtakingly beautiful. Most of the scenes in the film are shot at night and Venu has shown the right amount of black, white and grey on screen. Nobin Paul’s background music strengthens the film, giving Devaki a very realistic feel. 

Films with women in the lead are a rarity and attempts like Devaki may pave way for more such films. Suspense thrillers are like jigsaw puzzles. Initially, they all look the same, but what matters is the placement of the pieces. By executing the perfect, unexpected climax – a moment of catharsis for the audience - Devaki manages to keep us invested all through. But for its slow pace, this is a film that deserves a watch. 

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.