'Room No. 54', a 10-episode web series, is now streaming on ZEE5. Here is our review of the latest OTT outing
The series is set in 2002 and 2021. Back in 2002, Moin as Venkat Rao, Krishna Prasad as Yuvaraj, Pawan Ramesh as Prasanna and Krishna Teja as Babai shared a room in the hostel of an Engineering college.
Throughout their hostel days, they go through several typical situations that define their college life. One of them has a love story, another one is an aspiring filmmaker, yet another is a spectator. At the end of each episode, a visitor who had stayed in the room before them pays a visit and they open up in his presence. What one such guest says in an episode is the crux of the theme.
The series is a typically acted show where the actors refuse to rise above the YouTube beats. The performances are consistently played to type. Much as the four friends are funny faces inherently, they look bland in trying to look more comical than the situations.
Swetha and Navya, who play the only female characters, come with some natural flair. They are well cast in a show whose universe is limited. Among the guest actors, Tanikella Bharani and Harish Kodamagandla of 'Amrutham Chandamamalo' fame alone impress. Uttej and others don't add much. Satyadev Kancharana goes a bit over the top.
Telugu-language web series have not exactly been known for noteworthy technical output. 'Room No. 54' sticks to minimalism to a fault. The comical music playing in the background gets repetitive after a point. The cinematographer negotiates the limited space he is offered. Most stretches of each of the episodes are set in a hostel room.
Over the past few years, Instagrammers, YouTubers and memes have made hostel/college days look like a breeze. Director Siddharth Gautham draws from the material and tries to build a coming-of-age drama using stock scenes. The leap in the final episode looks somewhat sudden and synthetic, considering that the emotional depth is missing in the other episodes.
The scenes lack sting and it's underwhelming when comedy scenes come without a zing. The comedy spun around the overdose of booze is just meh.
After a point, the hostel room backdrop starts feeling suffocating. The travails around fund crunch, the insecurities in love, a character's obsession with the crossword and the aspiring filmmaker looking for ideas around him, had so much potential in them. But the comedy is not optimal.
The recurring shot of the roomies savouring cigarettes is an over-indulgence. The references to no-strings-attached relationships don't sound novel either.
On the bright side, the bromance is not Dil Chahta Hai-type. And the flashbacks within flashbacks are structured well without making things difficult for the viewer.
'Room No. 54' is a hostel room story minus the expanse of a college campus show. It had great potential to be a new-age youthful comedy. Since it's presented by 'Pelli Choopulu' director Tharun Bhascker, one expected it to be exciting. But the output is nothing unique.