‘Bhaagamathie’ is a fun, well-constructed conceit that tweaks a few predictable tropes
Everything isn’t what it seems in writer-director Ashok’s Bhaagamathie, despite him indulging in a few familiar, stale tropes. The biggest chink in the armour is the sight of a too-good-to-be-true on-screen politician. No prizes for guessing he will turn out to be a wolf in a sheep’s clothing.
We also know that a woman who is cornered, in this case jailed and later interrogated in a forsaken haunted building, will be a victim. And if you’ve watched a few blockbuster Telugu films, you’re likely to think of a connection between the woman and the unseen force in that house. A spirit of a wronged woman waiting for revenge, unrequited love, reincarnation… we’ve seen it all.
So when IAS officer Chanchala (Anushka Shetty)’s journey into the Bhaagamathie palace begins, it all looks familiar. The technical team ups the game to keep you invested in this cocktail of politics, murder, horror and comedy. Ravinder’s production design, Madhie’s cinematography and Thaman’s music score play to the strengths of the horror template.
The actual story takes time to bloom. Chanchala is whisked away from jail where she’s serving a sentence after being accused of murdering her husband (Unni Mukundan), and interrogated against rules by an additional CBI officer Vyshnavi Natarajan (Asha Sharath), an ACP who also happens to be her brother in law (Murali Sharma). There are also a few constables whose antics add to the humour quotient. Dhanraj, Vidyu Raman and co are a riot.
For a long time, the atmospherics of the horror genre take centrestage. Chanchala walks into one eerie room after another peering through dust-laden windows, rickety staircases and shows no fear of having to be in this strange place. A book and larger-than-life paintings foretell a story of queen Bhaagamathie. But parallely, something else happens when Chanchala asks her interrogator to ‘think big’. It’s also the director Ashok asking us to look beyond the obvious and pre-empting that he’s likely to pull the rug from under our feet.