Directed by Anish Kuruvilla, ‘G.O.D’ is about a family’s rise to power in a small town and how violence engulfs the family’s members over the course of two decades.

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Flix Web series Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - 18:27

G.O.D (Gods of Dharmapuri), directed by Anish Kuruvilla, is thematically similar to Gangs of Wasseypur with regards to how it portrays violence and vengeance as a disease. There’s a scene in the series where Venu Reddy (Satyadev) and Ravi (Karthik Rathnam) barge into a house to kill a long-time rival, DN Reddy (LB Sriram).

In his dying moments, DN Reddy tells Venu, “Power is a disease. It spread from me to your father, and now, you are going to be sucked into the same quagmire.” It’s a powerful moment in the story where Venu, who has shunned violence all his life, comes to terms with what he has gotten himself into and that he cannot look away from what has been handed over to him through his family.

In its best moments, G.O.D focuses on family legacy and the ripple effect of one’s actions even after several years. Throughout the story, there’s a constant undercurrent of violence and oppression over two generations, and by tracing the origin of one family’s rise to power in a small town, G.O.D ends up giving an insight into the origin of political power centres, and how local events shake up politics on a much larger scale.

The story of G.O.D begins with a family’s migration from Kadapa to Dharmapuri, a fictional town on the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border. The head of the family, Pratap (Raj Deepak Shetty), is an angry man, who ends up working in a mine, alongside his relative Chalapathi. Soon, Pratap is forced to confront a dreaded goon, a close aide of the local leader DN Reddy, and it triggers a series of events which push Pratap into usurping power.

Fifteen years later, with Pratap elected the Zilla Parishad chairman, the local rivalries flare up once again, and this time it’s up to Pratap’s elder son, Venu, to steer his family away from its violent history. However, with his younger brother Ravi’s wayward behaviour and his father’s aggression turning out to be a major hindrance for peace, the rest of the story is about how Venu takes a stand for the sake of his family.

The series is a roller-coaster ride, and Anish Kuruvilla has a stern control over the narrative, right from painstakingly narrating the incidents in the early ‘60s, which led to the rise of Pratap, to his political leanings with the help of Ranga Rao, a communist leader. If one could draw an analogy as far as the narrative is concerned, the backstory of Pratap is the climb uphill and for as many as four episodes, you’re left wondering why Anish wants us to know each and every detail about the oppression that the labourers working in the mine had to face, and how they were mistreated by the then police officials and other politicians.

However, once the story crosses the tipping point, it turns into a rewarding experience for all the emotional investment that it demands from the viewers. The backstory, even if it feels a tad too long, is a necessary evil to justify how people change once they have power in their hands and call the shots. By the end of the story, it justifies how life, and more importantly violence, comes full circle. The story hits top gear once the narrative moves to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with the arrival of Venu and Ravi. Even when the story turns predictable, the screenplay is gripping enough to keep us hooked and Anish succeeds in executing his vision with great clarity.

The series, however, does falter, especially when it comes to setting up the world it’s set in. What begins as a story of a local rivalry quickly turns into an epicentre of state politics; however, the visual treatment doesn’t quite change. This makes it hard to see Dharmapuri as a major power centre in state politics. While the whole idea of coal mafia, and how it shakes up the whole region, is extremely well-established in Gangs of Wasseypur, G.O.D doesn’t quite achieve a similar effect. And the whole brouhaha over the actions of a local leader at the state and central level is a little hard to buy. And then, when the story focuses on the rise of youth in state politics, once again it’s the scale, or the lack of it, which feels like a let-down towards the end.

But then, G.O.D has a lot going in its favour, especially when it focuses on the family and how Venu struggles amidst people who just don’t let go of their past. His mother is his only pillar of support throughout his life, and Venu finds himself crushed under the weight of his family’s legacy. His hands too get soaked in blood in the process, and Satyadev delivers a terrific performance throughout the show. Karthik Rathnam as Ravi is equally terrific as an aggressive young man who worships his brother. Chandini, as Venu’s wife, brings in plenty of grace to her role. Raj Deepak Shetty as Pratap and Shruty Jayan as Saroja are perfect in their respective roles. The series also deserves credit for its notable supporting cast, especially Jagadeesh Pratap Bandari, who plays Chalapathi, and Raghu Ram as Subba Reddy. 

G.O.D also captures the flavour of its region quite well, especially in terms of its dialect, and the crude usage of expletives to showcase anger at every level. The language might feel offensive, but it’s authentic in its portrayal of a group of people who just can’t stand each other because of their class and political differences.

The first season of G.O.D focuses on violence on a physical level and how it takes a toll on families and sometimes even villages. And with the season finale steering the narrative towards the political game on a larger scale, it’s worth the wait to see what Anish Kuruvilla and his team do next. This is easily one of the better shows to have come out in Telugu over the years. It does have its share of shortcomings, but G.O.D is a major improvement in the Telugu web series space when it comes to narrative and bringing a cinematic quality to writing and making of the series.

Hemanth Kumar CR is a Hyderabad-based film journalist. He writes about Telugu cinema on most days, and when he doesn’t, one can find him talking about Game of Thrones, chai, books, and digging into all things related to history.

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