‘Virupaksha’ Movie Rating: 3/5
In Rudravanam, a young couple, a middle-aged woman and an old man die one after another in a span of a few days. Surya (Sai Dharam Tej) notices a pattern. He believes that the next individual who is going to die is the one who witnessed the previous death. And the one is his sweetheart, Nandini (Samyukta Menon). Can he crack the mystery and save Nandini? Or, is there a bigger purpose up his sleeve?
The premise of ‘Virupaksha’ is pretty much standard fare. Black magic, a village haunted by a curse, and a young woman facing a familiar crisis. But story-writer Karthik Dandu (who is also the film’s director) gives a unique spin in the second half. Sukumar B’s screenplay knows the art of attaining transitions from one stretch to another without compromising the integrity of its handful of substantial characters.
In the initial stage, when the characters played by Rajeev Kanakala and Sunil are shown to be typical village elders, we anticipate a routine political angle. As the story progresses, revenge as an element comes into its own. One or more characters seethe with rage but their bloodlust is not pedestrian. ‘Masooda’ had a streak of innovation as per many audience members, but here is a genuine film that comes with loads of imaginativeness.
The lead character, played by Sai Tej, starts off by brushing off the influence of the so-called “bad omen”. Later, his character avoids cliches and assumes unique traits. Samyukta’s Nandini is a bit enigmatic right from the start. She is seen hunting down a bird for no sin of it. Soniya Singh plays Sudha, who means the world to Nandini.
The story is set in 1991 and takes care of the hamlet-like staging of the village. The 12-year leap is dramatic and seamless in the first act. The flashes of a tormented old man keep flipping in and out of the story. A village fair is interrupted by the physical manifestation of a curse-fuelled death. The Angry Goddess trope is understated. The interspersing of gravely-important rituals with a medical emergency is another interesting idea. Sai Chand’s glum look and matter-of-fact dialogue delivery lends gravitas to the story.
On the flip side, the film stages the lurking danger in the style of a hackneyed horror movie in many places. Granted that there are no typical jump scares but still, the horror movie feel is something the film fails to shake off for a good portion. The stretch where the hero saves Nandini comes undone by a ‘He just helped his neighbor, not lover’ feel.
B Ajaneesh Loknath’s music is minimalistic. His score avoids the temptation of being loud. Shamdat Sainuddin’s cinematography is effective; the viewer doesn’t have to strain his eyes to comprehend the night-time shots. The temple set doesn’t come with frills. The production design is sans grandeur, suiting the flavour of the story.
Sai Tej performs with nuance. His characters spoke much in the past but here is a film that wants him to emote with his demeanour. His character is not used to staging needless fights either. Samyukta and Sai Chand are the other actors who bring maturity to the table. Sunil’s character is not reduced to a typical villain. Rajeev Kanakala happily doesn’t die in the film.
‘Virupaksha’ has hair-raising moments. It has also got a story with a couple of twists. Watch it for some incredible technical output and commendable performances.