MUMBAI — The best and most relevant aspect of Telugu cinema and the primary cause why it continues to do well is its totally healthy disrespect for pseudo-intellectuals and critics who do not know the ethos of Indian cinema and its audience. A great example is the recent “V” that premiered on Amazon Prime Video, which I decided to watch assuming it would have a dubbed Hindi version online.
However, the media releases I had got before its release (which is why i had thought it would have a Hindi version) had intrigued me, and I decided to go ahead even with the original Telugu film and (overall quite competent) English subtitles. Curiosity had got the better of me, I confess—it was hyped as Nani’s 25th film, but why? After all, he was the villain here? What kind of big star would allow himself to do a film as a villain as his 25th one, and risk offending his fans in his first action role?
Clearly, then, it is not a spoiler to say that there must be something positive in the character—and that is the age-old trope that he is on a revengeful spree. But why does he do it? And why must he murder so brutally? Yes, there is quite a bit of stomach-churning violence here, which again is a Telugu cinema specialty. But then, if you mix “Wanted,” “Dabangg” and other Hindi films and ditto South actioners, you will find your answers, while wishing of a lesser intensity to the blood-fest at intervals.
So we have DCP Adithya (Sudheer Babu) challenged by a killer named V (Nani) who leaves a message for him on each victim’s dead body, and from the third one onwards, even gives him clues about the next victim. The first victim, of course, is inspector Prasad, Adithya’s colleague. In one case, Adithya just misses accosting V by seconds.
Then there are the complexities—a reason to believe that Adithya and V were classmates, and an investigation that shows that V was an ace soldier who was thought to be dead. So what is the connection? Why is V baiting Adithya? Is there any link between Adithya’s new girlfriend Apoorva (Nivetha Thomas) and the story other than the fact that she wants to write a book on ace cops and their cases?
Finally, who is Saheba (Aditi Rao Hydari) and what is her connection with V? And can Adithya prevent the remaining murders?
At 2.20, apart from some fairly tuneful but needless songs (Amit Trivedi again scoring in Telugu), the film grips from beginning to end, and the unique climax and post-climax (there is a post-post-climax too!) resemble an extended and serious version of one installment of a Hindi action franchise—and I will not give more clues here. It raises the bar of the film immediately, the way the midway twist in the 2009 ‘Wanted” did.
Expertly scripted and directed by Mohana Krishna Indraganti, with superb work by DOP, P. G. Vinda and editor Marthand K. Venkatesh, it has good background music by Thaman. “V” works on its crisp dialogues and uber-fast pace. the film is a perfect example of what a mainstream movie should be—minus some ultra-violent scenes, of course.
Happily, Nani is the lifeline of the film as the vicious killer, though Sudheer Babu as the ardent cop is no less effective. The female leads are fetching in their limited roles, but the child artiste playing Ayesha is excellent.
I also could not locate the name of the actor who impressed as Prasad. Vennela Kishore as Mansoor and Vijay Verma in a brief cameo as Sadiq also stand out in this complex saga of corrupt politicians and cops, honest policemen, goons, a realtor, communal riots, human trafficking and army protocol.
There, have I let out some spoilers? Not really! Maybe they will make you more curious instead about how so many varied angles can be all fitted into one gripping story that, while being old wine in a new bottle, is intoxicating all the same.
Produced by: Dil Raju, Sirish Lakshman & Harshith Reddy
Written and directed by: Mohan Krishna Indraganti
Music: Amit Trivedi
Starring: Nani, Sudheer Babu, Nivetha Thomas, Aditi Rao Hydari