'Virupaksha', produced by Sri Venkateswara Cine Chitra and Sukumar Writings, was released in theatres today.
The story is set in a fictional hamlet named Rudravanam somewhere in Andhra. Back in 1979, a wife and a husband were burnt alive by villagers on the suspicion that they were evil. The wife's curse haunts the village 12 years later. Four shocking deaths put the entire village on the edge.
It is up to Surya (Sai Dharam Tej) to find out the reason for the unending spate of mysterious tragedies in the village. In this, his girlfriend Nandini (Samyukta Menon), the village's head priest (Sai Chand), and an occult practice have a major role.
Sai Dharam Tej happened to say that he didn't behave like the character for the first time in his career. He had to make a conscious effort to "act" rather than behave. Despite adopting a new approach, Tej looked largely effortless in the role of a destined saviour. He is very good in an emotional scene in the last 15 minutes.
Samyukta Menon, after playing a safe lead role in 'SIR' and a damsel in distress in 'Bheemla Nayak', heightens her appeal in a wow role. Her performance in the second half is impactful despite not-so-huge screen time.
The characters played by Ajay and Sai Chand fall in a certain bracket in the universe of 'Virupaksha'. The latter outshines the former by a country mile. Sunil's get-up does look contrived but his acting is not. Brahmaji, Rajiv Kanakala, anchor Shyamala, Soniya Singh (as Sudha, Nandini's friend), and others fit the bill.
B Ajaneesh Loknath was chosen after Vikrant Rona's music started to be taken seriously last year. He may not have 'Kantara'-fied 'Virupaksha' but his BGM definitely upholds the mood and atmospherics of the film. His BGM could well turn out to be a major reason for the film's BO success.
Cinematographer Shamdat Sainudeen of 'Uppena' fame had a challenge; he had to make the night shots look tasteful. He delivers the job. Sri Nagendra Tangala's production design enhances the Modhamamba Temple backdrop and the entire Rudravanam backdrop (the set was erected near BHEL in Hyderabad).
The film doesn't have a regular hero-heroine trajectory. The story takes off on a spine-chilling note with the introduction of Kamal Kamaraju and Kamakshi Bhaskarla as a married couple. The prologue (the first 5 minutes or so) is terrific.
The rom-com track may look bland on the surface but it is not. You have to notice what Nandini and Surya utter in their overtly romantic interactions. The pre-interval block gives a high, although what happens immediately after it in the second half is predictable.
The second half comes with two charming twists. The writing department doesn't fool the audience with unnecessarily misleading points. Surya, the male lead, truly becomes a redeeming saviour without overdoing it.
There are a few elements that feel ultra-familiar. Some portions involving Sai Chand's character could have been better. In the first half, the four deaths could have been narrated without relegating Sai Dharam Tej's character to a level of passivity. The climax could have come with a shock-and-awe factor.
Director Karthik Dandu's story and 'Pushpa' director Sukumar's screenplay receive a boost from the technical departments. This film is a mystical thriller minus general predictability.