Double crosses can be beautiful things. Put together a set of characters, each with a desperate need to look after their own interests, and all with contradictory motives that pull in different directions, and you could get a fascinating tale that ensnares you from the get go.
But for this engaging tapestry to unfold, you need a good storyteller directing events, holding all the different strands together. Without that, as the Atharvaa starrer Semma Botha Aagathey proves, all you get is a bizarre train wreck that can confuse and frustrate even the most accommodating of minds.
Directed by Badri Venkatesh and produced by Atharvaa, Semma Botha Aagathey starts off with our hero Ramesh taking a drunken decision to call a sex worker Neena (Anaika Soti) to his house in an attempt to get over his failed relationship with Madhu (Mishti Chakraborti).
The film raises hackles right at the start, when Ramesh and his best friend Nandhu (Karunakaran) repeatedly refer to Neena as a “kulfi” and a “figure”. As if that weren’t enough, the film wastes what feels like an hour on a totally unnecessary sequence in which Neena tries to seduce Ramesh and bolster his courage enough to do the deed. Of all the things that annoy in these early scenes, what grates the most is the lazy and laughable B-movie soundtrack of seduction that floods one’s ears.
When Ramesh gets called away by an emergency involving a neighbour, and returns home to find Neena dead, you think to yourself that the film is finally settling down to its noir heart, involving gangsters, a fortune in ill-gotten wealth and betrayal. Unfortunately, Badri and Atharvaa have other plans in mind, choosing to take the film down a part-comedy track.
By itself, the idea of an action comedy in such circumstances is nothing to be dismissed. After all, just a few months ago Mysskin and GR Adithyaa gave us a perfectly adequate thrill ride with the comic thriller Savarakathi. But Semma Botha Aagathey lacks the comics touches that could make its non-serious plotting work.
There are too many predictable jokes involving men, sex and alcohol, for instance. And far too many one-liners fall flat for want of a genuine comic moment. Sample Nandhu’s retort when a woman doctor tells Ramesh to take off his pants so a wound on his leg can be dressed: “What is this, you are telling him to take off his dress so that you can dress him?” says Nandhu, pausing for the laughter that does not come. Not all of the comedy in the film is as bad, and Karunakaran has some hilarious highpoints. But the genuinely funny moments get swamped by an excess of such attempts for the easy laugh.
The background music and camera work are similarly predictable, relying on far too much thumping base, slow motions and dizzying camera sweeps to amp up the otherwise tepid action elements of the film.
What’s more, the thriller sacrifices too much of the possible coherence and sense of the plot for the sake of laughs. So you get a strange cascade of events that seem to have been thought up by the director as the shooting went along. For instance, you never quite understand why our hero would go haring off to Palakkad to solve the gigantic mystery behind Neena’s murder, instead of figuring out what to do with the dead body lying on his bed. Even worse is how easily the mystery solves itself for him, with the many villains practically climbing over each other to do the unravelling for him.
Some of the sequences in the film seem to have been deliberately chosen for their perverse strangeness. Ramesh’s breakup with Madhu over a video he makes of her sucking her thumb in her sleep, for instance, just leaves you scratching your head in amazed confusion. And the scenes involving MS Bhaskar as a cop with a weakness for paid sex just leave a bad taste in the mouth.
The one thing that could be said about Semma Botha Aagathey is that it doesn’t get boring at any point, mostly because you spend most of the film just trying to figure out why so many random elements have been packed into the story. If that kind of masala miscellany that lets one’s mind check out for a couple of hours appeals to you, then Semma Botha Aagathey might work for a single watch.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.
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