A remake of the Tamil ‘Ratsasan’, what could have been a crisp two-hour psychological crime thriller ends up being dragged for an extra half hour.

Rakshasudu review A thrilling serial killer saga let down by needless melodrama
Flix Tollywood Friday, August 02, 2019 - 14:54
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Serial killer movies are fascinating because they turn the audience into detectives. You live and die with the characters, metaphorically. But, serial killer movies shouldn’t be made like India saas-bahu serials. What happens once the daughter-in-law lost the spoon – will she find it in the kitchen or in the lawn? That kind of drama doesn’t suit psychological thrillers.

Rakshasudu is the remake of the Tamil Ratsasan. It is based on the story of a Russian serial killer, who was known for severely torturing and murdering young girls. As a story, this has everything. A sharp serial killer who lures young girls after winning their trust, having met them earlier (a common connection between all the deaths – but watch the movie to see it for yourself) and disposes off the bodies a couple of days later. A gift, a mutilated doll, is always discovered near the kidnapped girl’s home.

The plot uses a classic cop trope – a young officer, Arun (Bellamkonda Srinivas), with a Sherlock-ish penchant for spotting clues is disregarded by his superiors. In this case, it is Lakshmi, an unreasonable police officer with a sharp tongue, who herself at times seems utterly incompetent at her job. Unfazed, Arun tries to connect the deaths from Day 1, thanks to his memory and research on serial killers (he is an aspiring filmmaker). The plot also uses the other usual trope of thrillers – the diversion, the man everyone suspects to be the murderer, until he is caught too easily only to make everyone wonder if he was what everyone thought he is.

The movie deftly uses the plot to expose audiences to the harassment girls could undergo at the hands of sexual predators at their schools and colleges. (Parents, are you listening to your children!!) The movie also smartly creates a backstory for the serial killer – a medical disorder, bullying at school, social boycott, increased anger leading to vengeance, and a sadistic personality that starts feeding off inhuman crime. The movie is quite linear in the second half, with the cops in pursuit of the person identified to be the serial killer.

While Rakshasudu has a lot going for it, director Ramesh Varma errs in the way the story is executed. What could have been a crisp two-hour psychological crime thriller ends up being dragged for an extra half hour. A TV-sitcom like handling of the story betrays a certain ignorance of the way thrillers are usually developed. Most thriller-lovers do not prefer cheap scares and needless drama. For them, the plot is the drama. The smartness of the antagonist is the drama.

While the story has ingenious ways of revealing clues and then leading the protagonist one step closer to the killer, it also indulges in unnecessary diversions. An annoying superior shown to be overtly insensitive (given there are dead girls, an egotistical woman officer shown to be least bothered about the happenings feels rather outlandish), a melodramatic song after one of the murders, the protagonist walking the slow dramatic walk when the omniscient narration makes the audience already aware of what is happening on the other side of the door, the protagonist irresponsibly breaking rules even when not required, the entire police system working as an inefficient, vengeful mechanism – all these take away a lot from the charm of the thriller itself.

The movie runs entirely around the serial killer (name withheld to not give away the spoiler) and the cop Arun. Bellamkonda Srinivas puts up the best performance of his fledgling career. Yet, there is a lot of scope for improvement – he is sluggish in dialogue delivery and barely emotes. Perhaps he is better suited for all-out action. Anupama Parameswaran as his love interest barely features in the movie, with a wafer-thin role.

All in all, Rakshasudu takes a good plot but doesn’t do enough to justify a remake. I would rather watch the original if I have to deal with the unnecessary drama. What also adds to its particularly annoying melodrama is the balance of focus – the movie focuses more on a diversionary predator than it does on the antagonist. For the sake of thrills, the characters are made to commit schoolboy errors. You want audiences to gasp at the storytelling, not yell at the screen at what is so obviously stupid at times, especially when the story involves the lives of 15-year-old girls.

Rakshasudu could have been a brilliant movie. It is still decent, but it could have been so much more if the director and the story-writer Ram Kumar refined the story, made it taut, and deepened the mystery rather than widened the drama.

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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