The opening shot of Pawan Kumar’s “U Turn” literally turns the world upside-down, giving a view of the Double Road flyover that gives Bengaluru a hint of the strange and the unfamiliar. For much of the rest of this mystery thriller, Pawan tries hard to deliver on that promise.
The film revolves around a series of apparent suicides whose only connection is that all of the victims had committed a “minor” traffic violation. Rachna (Shradda Srinath), a trainee journalist pursuing a story on traffic violation, gets embroiled in this series of deaths, and sets out to solve the mystery with the aid of police officer Nayak (Roger Narayan).
Pawan takes his time laying the groundwork for this thriller, and in the process the film shows enough signs of craft to engage the viewer through most of the narrative. The film is paced well, and as writer and director, Pawan keeps the story free of unnecessary clutter for the most part.
Much of the heavy lifting is done by the background score and sound design of the film, which carefully thread the line between setting the mood and overwhelming it. Combined with the crisp editing of the film and the sharp camerawork, this manages to give the film the excitement that the narrative loses a little over halfway through.
The one fight sequence in the film, which takes place inside a police lockup, also displays some good stunt and effects chops, although the effect of the sequence is undercut by the narrative action occurring around it.
In Shradda, Pawan has a lead actor with enough range to shoulder the burden of occupying a majority of the screen time of the film, but Roger is a tad too earnest as the police officer committed to uncovering the truth.
It isn’t that the elements of a good thriller aren’t in “U Turn”. While the film does lack in gritty procedural details that form the meat of a good mystery, Pawan manages to pack in enough to give us at least a clear skeleton of the investigation.
What sabotages the film is the central premise itself. It is possible to take the chance consequences resulting from a minor event like a traffic violation and use them to make larger, more significant and intimate parts of life seem strange and alien. But this would require the story to radically unhinge the preconceptions with which viewers come into the film.
While writing “U Turn”, however, Pawan seems to have started off with a commonsense truth that most of us would agree with, and has built a pithy morality tale to go with it, and this limits the direction the story could progress along. After all, how much can you do with a story that accepts the middle-class disdain for someone else’s traffic violations?
And so, having set up for a tight, gripping mystery, U Turn ends not with a bang but a whimper.