Vikrant Rona has been marketed as an “action adventure fantasy” film — but strangely, it doesn’t fall into any of the three genres.

Kichcha Sudeep and Jacqueline Fernandes in Vikrant RonaFacebook
Flix Review Thursday, July 28, 2022 - 15:04
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A car breaks down in the middle of a forest. A child wearing a clown mask is abducted and killed. The opening sequence of Anup Bhandari’s Vikrant Rona promises old-fashioned chills accentuated by superior visual effects and a background score that regularly jolts you out of your seat just as you’re getting too comfortable with your popcorn.

Vikrant Rona has been marketed as an “action adventure fantasy” film. That’s three genres, but strangely, it doesn’t fall into any of them. The film is about a fictional village called Kamarottu where several children have been murdered, and the inspector investigating the case is also killed and dumped into a well. Is there a supernatural reason behind the murders or is there a serial killer in the village?

It is a grim subject but Bhandari turns it into a mass entertainer with an item number (courtesy Jacqueline Fernandez) to boot. Kichcha Sudeep as the new inspector, Vikrant Rona, arrives in Kamarottu to figure out what’s happening – but not before he enters into a righteous fight on a boat that brings him to the village. You see his shoes first, and hear his casual whistling. And then he’s exploding in every frame. 

The actor plays Vikrant with a sardonic swagger, dropping one-liners that are unexpectedly funny. The murders are almost an afterthought. One would expect that when 16 children have been killed over the years, somebody would have at least done a postmortem or drawn up a profile of the killer and his motives. But there’s no discussion that would resemble a police procedural. Instead, what we get is the various scribbles of the previous inspector who was killed, and a childish clue that you can easily guess. 

The screenplay is frenetic as it moves from one plot line to another, not giving the viewer sufficient time to absorb the revelations. A lot of the time, Bhandari drops a tantalising visual but he doesn’t go anywhere with it. Take the sequence leading up to the interval block; it should either serve as a major plot twist or a red herring. But the second half doesn’t pick up from there and all you get is a one-line explanation later for what happened.

Nirup Bhandari plays Sanju, a young man who ran away from the village when he was a child and has now chosen to return. Curiously, nobody badgers him about what he did all these years. The average Indian family is so intrusive that you’re expected to share everything about your life on an everyday basis, including how many bowel movements you had in a day. But Sanju’s family is strangely uninterested in finding out anything about his past.

Instead, the script saddles him with a romance with Panna (Neetha Ashok), a young woman whose father is convinced she must get married in their spooky ancestral home in the middle of nowhere. Like a campus romance, the characters sing (some catchy numbers there by Ajaneesh Loknath), dance, and joke around, with Vikrant participating in the fun. It’s apparently all for the investigation. I couldn’t wrap my head around how everybody in Kamarottu seems so genial when there’s a child killer out there — perhaps that’s why the film was marketed as a fantasy?

Madhusudhan Rao and Ramesh Kukkuvalli play villainous brothers, but there isn’t much for them to do other than glower. There are two Muslim characters in the film — one is evil and the other is stuck in the stereotype of fathering 10 kids. The ‘nautch’ girl played by Jacqueline is called Racquel D’Costa. Sigh.

The second half of the film falls into an unforgivable mess. The flashback revolves around an incident of caste violence, but the way the film represents, interprets and uses it in the plot is nothing short of exploitative and dangerous. The whole treatment given to the characters, with a ‘punch’ dialogue from Vikrant, only made me wonder just how much more tone-deaf and insensitive the writing could get. 

With its excellent cinematography, creepy background score and 3D effects, Vikrant Rona is packaged well. It’s what would be considered ‘paisa vasool’ entertainment. But anyone who likes to go beyond and unpack a film will come away disappointed. 

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.

Sowmya Rajendran writes on gender, culture and cinema. She has written over 25 books, including a nonfiction book on gender for adolescents. She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar for her novel Mayil Will Not Be Quiet in 2015.

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