There are movies that do not have great ideas but sail well because of the narration, screenplay and story-building. And then there are those that do have an interesting premise, but fail because of poor execution. Srividya Basawaâ€™s Madha is an example of the latter.
The story is about Nisha (Trishna Mukherjee) who is shown to be a victim of a scheming group of people creating evidence that she has schizophrenia. She finds herself in a mental asylum where a lot of experiments are done, obviously illegally, on the inmates. Why she lands there and does she even get out makes for the rest of the story. There are many implementation/screenplay decisions taken by the makers that backfire, and almost annoy you by the end, despite this being a short movie.
The movie has two parallel tales, which connect towards the end. One of them, the flashback narrative, feels quite unnecessary when the eventual secret is explained. There is a small subtext â€“ using a professor teaching about the mind â€“ that is not required at all. Once the eventual reveal comes out, you realise it wasnâ€™t so much about the mind really, making you wonder if too much unnecessary effort had gone into creating the suspense rather than building the actual plot.
The movie is riddled with amateurish direction mistakes. For example, oftentimes, in order to mislead the audience, a good character is shown in a negative light and a bad character is shown in a positive light. But, even if someone is being shown in a negative light, it is important to remember that the character is a good one. So, that character shoudnâ€™t really look creepy, or give the impression that he/she is actually enjoying being an antagonist. But, a lot of that happens in Madha, which at the final reveal makes you scoff in irritation.
The setup of the mental asylum being dark and dingy and the characters barely being able to act can be explained by the fact that the movie was probably made on a shoestring budget. But the diction of the actors leaves a lot to be desired. At the end of the day, it is a Telugu movie, and no matter what the budget constraints are, you would still want good dubbing. You donâ€™t want to hear a bunch of non-native speakers struggling to say their lines, their accents almost comical.
Lastly, the movie takes a whole load of liberties with logic. Take for example, a pivotal point at the core of the movie â€“ a test-tube baby with altered DNA was created with enhanced immunity. Another corrupt doctor (canâ€™t reveal the actorâ€™s name, obviously) â€“ and this is where it gets ridiculous, wait for it â€“ during a village camp tests his drug on the girl with immunity, and happy that she didnâ€™t react releases the drug into the market. He claims people die because of that and his license is seized. Funny isnâ€™t it? Would doctors really pull that off? Try their drug on one girl â€“ find out that she doesnâ€™t react to it â€“ voila, send it to the market. No approvals required, no permissions, no more testing!
Another good example to prove that enough thought hasn't gone into the movie is right at the beginning when a group of friends including the female protagonist, Nisha, are in a vodka shot competition. Nisha wins. But this creepy guy, who bets on her to win coming out of nowhere, turns out to be the one who drops her home. Her friends just leave her and go after all that drinking. And in two weeks, we see her being obsessed about him (which is funny in more ways than one). Even for a story about creepy people becoming part of our lives, we need a little more build-up.
Madha gets confused somewhere between trying to show how one manipulative person can literally take over your life and seize control. It then moves on to some kind of a black experience at an (which licensed asylum runs like that, I cannot imagine), asylum for the mentally ill. Eventually, the drama becomes unbearable in the end, where nothing is explained about the corrupt doctor out of revenge, the asylum and the corrupt people running it, and the creepy looking journalists who refer to themselves as shadow journalists. Whatever they were trying to say!
All in all, Madha, somewhere at its core, had a decent plot. Between a low budget, bad actors, and incoherent screenplay, it loses its essence. The movie, unlike what you would say about most other Telugu movies, needed at least another half hour to play out well. And a lot more thought should have gone into actually sketching the story out. It may not then have ended up this half-baked.
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.