Devil review: Kalyan Ram’s film loses steam when it attempts to mimic RRR
Devil (Telugu)(2 / 5)
In case you aren’t tired already, Nandamuri Kalyan Ram’s Devil is the latest Telugu film attempting to milk the prevailing sentiment of right-wing nationalism. The film directed by Abhishek Nama, at least officially, starts with an interesting premise of a murder mystery, though it later becomes a subplot to a larger story about espionage and the return of freedom fighter Subash Chandra Bose.
The story takes place in the year 1945, and revolves around the British Secret Service’s ploy to catch Subash Chandra Bose. An undercover operative working with the Azad Hind Fauj, or the Indian National Army (INA), tips off the British about the arrival of Bose, who is returning from Burma. Similar to the British officers shown in Rajamouli’s RRR, these Secret Service agents are vicious and ruthlessly torture supporters of the INA to extract information.
Kalyan Ram, a secret agent of the British whose codename is Devil, is entrusted to capture the Indian freedom fighter. As an upright and intelligent officer, he gives a convincing performance. The film also stars actors Samyuktha, Malavika Nair, Elnaaz Norouzi, Ajay, and Satya. Neither Samyuktha nor Malavika gets enough screen time, but they are adequate in their roles.
Devil’s production value is exceptional. The costumes and sets immerse you in this world, but the repeated use of the same set could have been avoided. Though cinematographer Soundar Rajan S impresses with his shots, it becomes evident that most of the shooting took place indoors.
Though the first half of the film moves at a snail’s pace, coupled with some banal dialogues such as “Fortunate for us, unfortunate for them,” the content is original. But the murder investigation does not give enough highs. The crime investigation can be passed off as a children’s story. It is evident that Srikanth Vissa, who wrote the story and screenplay, was more invested in the larger plot than the murder mystery. In his earnesty to give a ‘stunning’ second half, Srikanth puts the story on hold for a long while. This decision becomes a major problem in the film’s pacing.
After a lacklustre first half, Devil enters the actual story by the second half. As the film picks up pace, the investigation around a man named Trivarna – a mysterious fictional character whom the film portrays as second in command to Bose in the INA – gains momentum. Bose will return to India only after getting a clearance from Trivana, his trusted lieutenant.
The hunt for Trivarna, Bose, and the unravelling of the murder mystery makes for a compelling watch for a brief period, only to be let down by the penultimate sequence in the final act.
Devil begins as a whodunit mystery and turns into an espionage thriller, but eventually succumbs to the pressure of making a conventional film with over the top action sequences and the dull unconvincing ‘twist’ while revealing Trivarna. The twist comes as an afterthought, and instead of cleverly shocking the audience, it comes across as deception. Besides, the twist hardly comes as a surprise to anyone acquainted with Indian films.
Devil takes generous ‘inspiration’ from the blockbuster film RRR, which incidentally featured Kalyan Ram’s brother Jr NTR. The inspiration is so heavy that they have hired the same actor from RRR – Edward Sonnenblick – to play a similar role in Devil.
I was pleasantly surprised when Malavika Nair, a supposed Gandhian while condemning the British, also calls out the INA for allying with“fascist Hitler”, stating that the path of violence does not provide a long-term solution. It was almost shocking to see the film preaching non-violence in the current political atmosphere, where only right-wing nationalism is accepted and Gandhi is dissed. But that shock did not last not long. What did I expect though?
Watch the trailer here:
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 producers or any other members of its cast and crew.