Yakshini: A not so satisfying blend of fantasy, thrills, and romance

The performances of Vedhika and Ajay save the series from being a complete washout

Starcast: Vedhika, Ajay, Rahul Vijay, Manchu Lakshmi and others

Director: Teja Marni

Producers: Shobu Yarlagadda and Prasad Devineni

Production house: Arka Media Works

Music director: Priyadarshan Balasubramaniam

Cinematography: Jagadeesh Cheekati

No of episodes: 6

Streaming site: Disney+Hotstar

On paper Yakshini directed by Teja Marni has an interesting storyline which could have made for a good concoction of fantasy, thrills and romance but the not so impressive direction coupled with some lackluster CGI make it a tedious watch for most part.

Maya (Vedhika) is a Yakshini/Nymph who has been cursed by Kubera the king of Yakshinis in the mythical land of Alkapuri. Maya falls in love with Mahakal (Ajay). Mahakal deceives her by pretending to be in deep love with her for a particular purpose. Soon the reality of Mahakal comes out leaving Maya heartbroken. Maya is denied re entry into Alkapuri by Kubera. Upon pleading Kubera puts a condition saying that Maya can come back to Alkapuri after killing 100 bramhacharis. She kills 99 but things get complicated as she falls in genuine love with an innocent bachelor Krishna (Rahul Vijay). There is also another Nymph called Jwala Mukhi (Manchu Lakshmi). Jwalamukhi has her own personal agenda against Maya while pretending to be a friend. The rest of the story moves along multiple lines. Mahakal’s enmity with Maya and how he desperately wants to make her his slave, whether Krishna come to know about Maya’s plan and is Maya is able to return to Alkapuri etc

One of the very few redeeming features of Yakshini are the performances of Vedhika and Ajay. As the beautiful and dangerous Maya Vedhika delivers a compelling performance. She is suitably sensuous when required but also makes a big impact in the portions where the character takes a ferocious turn. In the few emotional bits, she effectively conveys the vulnerability of the role. Ajay as the antagonist is effective in bringing the required menace making the viewers hate him. The dynamics between Mahakal and Maya are far more interesting than the tepid love story between Maya and Krishna.

A major problem with the web series Yakshini is the poor handling of the love story. The romance feels mostly labored, adding to the annoyance further is the family of Krishna. This track makes the show look more like a tv serial and less of a web series. Lakshmi Manchu’s Jwala Mukhi begins with promise but beyond a point it doesn’t add much.

The back story of Maya and the Yakshini clan is also severely underdeveloped. More time needed to be spent on that. The VFX and the cinematography isn’t bad but compared to the Baahubali movies the quality is definitely a big letdown. The less said about the music the better.

Yakshini is a very much avoidable even for those who are hardcore fans of fantasy shows.

Save The Tigers 2: Deeply Explores Marital Problems With The Right Mix Of Humour And Drama

In spite of some hitches, this Arun Kothapally’s directorial is a good follow-up to Season 1 (‘Save The Tigers’).
  • Main Cast: Priyadarshi, Abhinav Gomatam, Chaitanya Krishna, Jordar Sujatha, Pavani Gangi Reddy, Deviyani Sharma, Gangavva, Seerat Kapoor, Darshana Banik, Venu Yaldandi, Satya Krishnan, Rohini, and Aarthi Ganeshkar
  • Director: Arun Kothapally
  • Producer: Mahi V Raghav and Chinna Vasudeva Reddy
  • Music Director: Ajay Arasada
  • Cinematography: SV Vishweshwar
  • Genre: Comedy Drama
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Episodes: 7
  • Published in: Southfirst

Director Teja Kakumanu’s web series Save The Tigers (2023) was a hilarious show about three frustrated married men — Ghanta Ravi (Priyadarshi), Rahul (Abhinav Gomatam), and Vikram (Krishna Chaitanya).

There is nothing common among them in terms of backgrounds. But still, there is a connecting factor that binds them.

In spite of the obvious similarities with Anil Ravipudi’s F2 (2019), the first season was very much its own beast. The director was successful in creating conflicts that have substance.

For example, Vikram’s wife is an activist-cum-lawyer. Their daughter is the emotional anchor just like many other children.

The first season also subtly touched upon important topics like workplace harassment. Not surprisingly, Save The Tigers become a huge success. It was easily one of the most loved shows of last year.

Save The Tigers 2

A still from the Telugu web series ‘Save The Tigers 2’. (X)

Now, we have Save The Tigers 2 with a new director Arun Kothapally. Coming to Season 2, Arun Kothapally adds new flavours by going deeper into marital problems but at the same time maintaining the entertainment quotient.

Season 1 ended up with Ghanta Ravi, Rahul, and Vikram being detained by the police on the suspicion of having a hand in the disappearance of actress Hamsalekha (Seerat Kapoor).

The trio indeed meet Hamsalekha, though unintentionally, on the particular drunken night. But the fact is they had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Fortunately, for the trio, Hamsalekha comes to their aid and the three are released from jail. Hamsalekha also ends up forming a bond with them, particularly Ghanta Ravi. This doesn’t go well with Ghanta Ravi’s wife Hymavathi (Jordar Sujatha).

The wives are fed up with the antics of their respective husbands and seek help from a psychiatrist (Sathya Krishnan). The rest of the story is about the three men navigating marriage while facing new problems.

Additionally, you also have individual journeys. For example, Ghanta Ravi has ambitions of becoming a corporator.

On the other hand, Rahul is penning a script for Hamsalekha.

An underlying theme of Season 2 is how people easily believe the gossip spread by news channels, particularly news about actresses and come to a negative judgment about them. This comes out strongly in the track of Priyadarshi and Seerat Kapoor.

There is gossip about Ghanta Ravi and Hamsalekha having an affair even though there is not an ounce of reality in it.

Analysis

Pavani Gangi Reddy, Jordar Sujatha, and Deviyani Sharma in ‘Save The Tigers 2’. (Screengrab)

The web series makes some strong points on how people are easily influenced by rumours and come to a conclusion without having the patience to verify.

Among the marital problems explored, there are the themes of “seven-year itch” and “seeking the easy way out”. For instance, Vikram is working on a new project with Harika (Darshna Banik).

It starts as a purely professional one but they end up getting attracted to each other. Fortunately, better sense prevails as Vikram realises the need to understand his wife better.

Director Arun Kothpally also takes some jibes at the advertisement industry on how they sell lies beautifully.

Talking about the comic sequences, the portions of Abhinav Gomatam and the house help played by Rohini are a major highlight. Their scenes bring the house down much like the first season.

A special mention must be made of the conversation where Rohini’s character talks about her business aspirations with Rahul. She asks him about what captions can be written on an autorickshaw, it is simply hilarious.

There are a couple of things which bog down Save The Tigers 2. One of them is an episode involving how the system of marriage came about. There is nothing wrong with the humour per se in these portions but the brief subplot comes across as an unwanted guest breaking the flow.

Also, the portions involving the allowance of pets in an apartment feel patchy.

Performances

Chaitanya Krishna, Priyadarshi, and Abhinav Gomatam in ‘Save The Tigers 2’. (X)

Talking about the performances,  Priyadarshi  leads from the front once again. His character has an arc that showcases both his comic and dramatic skills.

The emotional sequences of Ghanta Ravi with the daughter have come out brilliantly. There is a heart-touching scene when the daughter opens up about how she was earlier ashamed about her father being a dairy farm owner, but now that has changed.

Abhinav Gomatam continues to leave the viewers in splits with his comic timing. His delivery of the liners in particular deserves a special mention.

Krishna Chaitanya provides able support although he doesn’t have as much scope as the other two.

Among the female leads, Jordar Sujatha leaves the biggest impact with her strong act. There are occasions when she may come across as too loud for some but still her no-holds-barred manner is a delight to watch.

Additionally, she also shares a good chemistry with Priyadarshi. Her emotional scenes with Priyadarshi give the show some of its best moments.

Deviyani Sharma’s role is softer in comparison to the first season. But still, the actress has done a fairly decent job.

Pavani Gangi Reddy as the doctor-wife does her part well.

Final take

Keeping aside the small niggles, Save The Tigers 2 is very much bingeworthy.

Miss Perfect Web Series Review: A Farfetched Plot But A Breezy Watch

The show is about how love happens between Lavanya and Rohit and the multiple subplots taking place simultaneously.
Miss Perfect (Telugu)

Main Cast: Lavanya Tripathi, Abijeet Duddala, Abhignya Vuthaluru, Jhansi, Harsha Vardhan, Mahesh Vitta, and Harsh Roshan
Director: Vishvak Khanderao
Producer: Supriya Yarlagadda
Music Director: Prashant R Vihari
Cinematography: Aditya Javvadi
Rating: 2.5/5
Published in: SOUTH FIRST

Certain people are obsessed with perfection. They cannot even bear a slight bit of messiness. Not just common people but even big stars have admitted to having OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). Director Vishvak Kandero takes this topic in Miss Perfect and mixes elements of the then COVID-19 pandemic.

Lavanya Rao (Lavanya Tripathi) is a HR consultant. She has an obsessive-compulsive disorder for cleanliness and perfection. Lavanya comes to Hyderabad as she has joined a new job. At that time, lockdown is announced, and Lavanya is stuck in her apartment like others. Her maid Jyothi (Abhignya Vuthaluru) stops coming to work.

Rohit (Abijeet Duddala) is Lavanya’s neighbour. He lives in the apartment block opposite her. He is as messy as she is clean. Jyothi also works as a maid for Rohit. She requests Lavanya to inform him that she won’t be coming to work for a while.

Lavanya visits Rohit to inform the same but is shocked at the messiness in his flat. She ends up cleaning his house. In a rather weird turn of events, Lavanya ends up being a maid for Rohit.

Adding to the already chaotic situation, Lavanya’s father Gokul (Harshvardhan) is in a relationship with the apartment president Rajalakshmi (Jhansi). Lavanya has no idea about it. In simple terms, the story is about how love happens between Lavanya and Rohit and the multiple subplots simultaneously.

Analysis

As mentioned in the heading, Miss Perfect has a farfetched plot which takes some time to digest. Lavanya acting as a maid for Rohit is not only over the top but does not make any logical sense either.

Agree that Lavanya has a passion for cleanliness, but a highly qualified management professional becoming a maid for her neighbour just does not sit well.

Apart from the unbelievable nature of the story, another problem with Miss Perfect is that Lavanya’s OCD is merely used as a plot device for the leads to meet. It does not add much significance to the overall scheme of things.

But once you get past the bizarre nature of the plot, there is a quite bit to enjoy — the love story between Lavanya and Rohit has some cute moments. However, the biggest USP of Miss Perfect is the character of Jyothi and the subplot of her wanting to be a singer. There are many shades to her role, and the actress does a good job.

Performances

Abhignya Vuthaluru also shines in the comic bits. Her portions with Harsh Rohan, an aspiring YouTube influencer, leave the viewers in splits. Harshvardhan and Jhansi also have interesting roles, and the actors share a good chemistry. Their interactions bring a smile to the viewer’s face.

Gokul’s dilemma in revealing the relationship to his daughter is well-etched. Lavanya Tripathi as Lavanya does well in pulling off the eccentricities of her role. She skillfully portrays the internal struggle of her character. The actor somehow manages to make the viewers care in spite of the farfetched narrative. Abijeet Duddula is charming as Rohit.

Final take

Miss Perfect is a perfect watch if you are looking for clean entertainment. It is not a web series that would linger in your memory for a long time. But there is enough for fans of light-hearted shows.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

Vadhuvu: This Thriller Has Its Moments But Director Poluru Krishna Fails In Sustaining The Audience’s Interest Throughout

One of the things that work for ‘Vadhuvu’ is the short duration of its episodes. Each episode is a little above 20 minutes.

A watchable fare!

Vadhuvu (Telugu)

  • Cast: Avika Gor, Nandu Vijay Krishna, and Ali Reza
  • Director: Poluri Krishna
  • Producers: Abhishek Dogra and Shrikant Mohta
  • Music: Sriram Maddury
  • No. of episodes: 7
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

Thrillers are one of the most tough genres to execute for any director.

Engaging the audience in the guessing game and making them feel a sense of high throughout is not an easy job.

Vadhuvu, directed by Poluru Krishna, has an interesting storyline and mysterious characters who come with a set of motivations. However, the director is not entirely successful in keeping the audience hooked.

For those who are not aware, Vadhuvu is based on a Bengali show titled “Indu“. Since I have not seen that, this will be a standalone review.

Synopsis

Poluru Krishna directorial Vadhuvu
Poluru Krishna’s directorial ‘Vadhuvu’. (X)

Anjuri Indu’s (Avika Gor) wedding gets cancelled when her younger sister runs away with her groom.

This affects Indu and her family psychologically. After a year, Indu finally gets another match. She is married to Anand (Nandu), but even this doesn’t happen smoothly.

After entering Anand’s house, Indu comes across some mysterious scenarios.

What are the reasons behind Anand’s family behaving suspiciously? Why did Indu’s sister run away with the groom that Indu was supposed to marry?

The rest of the plot is about unravelling answers to these questions.

Analysis

One of the things that work for Vadhuvu is the short duration of its episodes. Each episode is a little over 20 minutes. As a result, the viewers don’t feel restlessness even when things stagnate.

As mentioned above, the characters in Vadhuvu are mysterious, and this works for the series, at least initially. As viewers, you know something weird is happening, and this keeps you hooked on what might be the reasons behind it.

In the technical department, the background score deserves a definite mention. It is suitably eerie and adds to the tense atmosphere.

There isn’t much scope for the cameraman to showcase his work here since the series has an indoor setting. Nevertheless, the cinematography is quite good.

Performances

Avika Gor in Vadhuvu
Avika Gor in ‘Vadhuvu’. (X)

As far as acting is concerned, the trio of Avika Gor, Ali Reza, and Nandu do most of the heavy lifting. Avika Gor does a good job of depicting the turmoil of Indu.

Ali Reza gets a good amount of screen time as Indu’s brother-in-law Arya. He successfully showcases the grey shades of his role.

Nandu, as Iindu’s husband, is a delight to watch in the way he skillfully conveys the frustration and suspicious nature of Anand.

The rest of the actors leave little to no impact.

A major issue with Vadhuvu is certain repetitiveness in the proceedings and the slow pacing. There are some redundant scenes which the director could have easily done away with.

Also, the web show leaves you with more questions than answers. There are too many cliffhangers that come across as a major deterrent in the way of the audience’s enjoyment.

Final take

Vadhuvu is a web series that is just about watchable.

The mysterious characters and the performances of the central trio leave an impact. It is not a solid thriller though.

Dhootha: This Riveting Paranormal Saga Makes Compelling Points About Politics And Journalism

‘Dhootha’ focuses on how Sagar (Naga Chaitanya) is related to the invisible forces and races against time to connect the dots.

An intriguing web show!

Dhootha (Telugu)

  • Cast: Naga Chaitanya, Priya Bhavani Shankar, and Parvathy Thiruthovu
  • Director: Vikram K Kumar
  • Producer: Sharrath Marar
  • Music: Ishaan Chhabra
  • No. of episodes: 8
  • OTT platform: Amazon Prime Video

Filmmaker Vikram K Kumar is not new to the genre of paranormal thrillers.

For example, the director made a horror film in Tamil titled Yavarum Nalam (2009). The same was dubbed into Telugu as 13 B.

13 B was a gritty thriller where a TV set becomes a character in the story.

After making a series of romantic and science fiction movies, the filmmaker is back with a paranormal thriller and this time, the focus is on journalism and politics.

Synopsis

Naga Chaitanya Vikram K Kumar
Actor Naga Chaitanya and director Vikram K Kumar on the sets of ‘Dhootha’. (X)

Sagar (Naga Chaitanya) and Priya (Priya Bhavani Shankar) are successful investigative journalists. They both are in a happy space, professionally and personally.

Priya is on maternity leave. But thankfully, director Vikram K Kumar doesn’t regulate her to just a one-note character.

Sagar is promoted as the chief editor of a newspaper called “Samachar“.

But the happiness doesn’t last long. A tragic accident claims the life of Sagar’s pet dog. Right before the tragedy, Sagar comes across a newspaper clipping which foretells what would happen.

The incident marks the beginning of many ominous messages foretelling future events and an external force targeting corrupt journalists.

Parvathy Thiruvothu plays an investigating officer named Kranti Shenoy.

In a nutshell, Dhootha focuses on how Sagar is related to these invisible forces and how he races against time to connect the dots.

Analysis

Naga Chaitanya in a still from Dhootha
Naga Chaitanya in a still from ‘Dhootha’. (X)

Vikram Kumar engrosses the viewers from the first frame. He does a brilliant job of balancing the suspense and supernatural elements.

A major strength of the Dhootha web series is how the director designs the character of Sagar.

Initially, the viewers see Sagar as an ideal husband and a righteous media person. He is an inspiration to many aspiring journalists.

But soon enough, layers upon layers come out. Sagar is a departure from the on-screen characters that Naga Chaitanya has portrayed thus far, and the actor more than rises to the occasion.

He does a splendid job, particularly when Sagar has mental and emotional breakdowns.

Backstory shines

Working still from Dhootha
A working still from ‘Dhootha’. (X)

The backstory of the newspaper involving Pasupathy and Tharun Bhascker also gives the web show some of its best moments.

There is a lot of impactful socio-political commentary.

For example, there are hard-hitting dialogues about how intersecting politics and journalism are dangerous for society. The web series also predicts that nothing good will come out of politicians running newspapers.

Apart from Pasupathy and Tharun Bhascker, Dhootha has many small characters. For example, Prachi Desai is Sagar’s PA, and Rohini is the mother. These characters have been neatly integrated into the main storyline by Vikram K Kumar.

For any thriller, it is necessary that the dots are connected, and the director has done a great job of connecting all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

Like the television set in 13 B, the newspaper cuttings play a pivotal role in the web series. As soon as a newspaper cutting appears, the viewers feel tense about what will happen next.

Performances

Parvathy Thiruvothu doesn’t need an introduction. She has always been a solid actor. Here too, she makes a huge impact as the no-nonsense police officer.

Priya Bhavani Shankar Sagar, as spouse, is in good form. Her character comes with its grey shades.

Technically, the Dhootha web series is a solid product with top-notch cinematography and special effects.

However, one slight problem is the middle part where the parallel investigation of Kranthi feels a bit bloated.

Also, the closing episode could have been more impactful. However, these are just minor quibbles in an otherwise gripping show.

Verdict

In a nutshell, the Dhootha web series is a gripping paranormal saga that makes some pertinent points about politics and journalism.

Mansion 24: An Unimaginative Horror Flick With Clichéd Jump Scares

Mansion 24 (Telugu)

  • Cast: Varalakshmi Sarathkumar, Satya Raj, Rao Ramesh, Tulasi, Nandu, and Avika Gor
  • Director: Ohmkar
  • Producer: Ashwin Babu and Kalyan Chakravarthy
  • Music: Vikas Badisha
  • No. of episodes: 6
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

After carving a niche for himself in television, Ohmkar made his directorial debut with the film Genius (2012) which didn’t live up to the title and ended up being a dud.

But the filmmaker found success with Raju Gari Gadhi released in 2015. It was a mix of comedy, horror, and family emotions culminating with a message.

The movie was a success at the box office and this led to two more films made with the same title.

However, the subsequent films Raju Gari Gadhi 2 (2017) and Raju Gari Gadhi 3 (2019) weren’t financially successful.

Now, the director has made his web series debut with Mansion 24 where the story is heavily reminiscent of his previous work. The only difference in Mansion 24 is that you don’t have any comedy track to ease the tension-filled atmosphere.

Synopsis

Kalidas (Satya Raj) is one of the most revered archaeologists in this country. In the middle of a particular excavation, he disappears without any trace. Not surprisingly, he is labelled as a traitor.

Amrutha (Varalakshmi Sarathkumar) is an investigative journalist and daughter of Kalidas. She takes it upon herself to trace his whereabouts and clear her father’s name.

In this quest, she heads to a mansion that is both abandoned and haunted.

Seetharam (Rao Ramesh), the supposed watchman, tells Amrutha about the various paranormal activities that have happened in the mansion.

In a nutshell, the story is about the various challenges that Amrutha faces in her journey to find out about the alleged betrayal of her father.

Mini-stories fall flat

To give credit where it is due, director Ohmkar is initially successful in creating a strong emotional foundation, the viewers do want Amrutha to succeed.

Also, through the mini-stories, Ohmkar touches upon some societal issues by talking about the ghosts within us.

However, the problem with these mini-stories is the lazy writing. Most of the characters have been poorly etched. As a result, the viewers don’t enjoy these mini-stories as much as they should.

The only segment which has some meat is the one involving Nandu and Bindu Madhavi. Nandu plays a ruthless conman with the right amount of scariness.

The viewers feel afraid of Nandu whenever he appears on the screen.

Bindu Madhavi brings an emotional gravitas to her part of a woman, who has a personal score to settle with Nandu’s character.

Another big problem with Mansion 24 is the characterisations of Satya Raj and Tulasi. Tulasi plays the mother of Amrutha. Neither of them has been fleshed out sufficiently.

Adding to the woes is a melodramatic scene where the mother suddenly recovers from a severe health issue.

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar is effective in portraying the different nuances of Amrutha. The actress manages to rise above the sketchy writing, the viewers wish that she had chosen a much better story.

Characters hear strange sounds, there is a man with a long beard who mouths Sanskrit slokas, and all the ghosts wear white clothes among others. The bankruptcy of ideas is clearly visible.

The cinematography and the production design are in tune with the show’s nature, but there is no element that particularly stands out. The tried and tested horror elements are all there.

Final take

To sum it up, it is high time that Ohmkar let go of the horror genre and did something different.

Kumari Srimathi Season 1: A Heartwarming Tale About A Female Entrepreneur

Director Gomtesh Upadhye presents an enjoyable story with relatable characters

Kumari Srimathi web series season 1 (Telugu)          

Starcast: Nitya Menon, Gautami, Talluri Rameshwari, Prem Sagar Rajulapati and others guest appearance (Nani )

Direction: Gomtesh Upadhye

Writers: Uday Aghamarshan, Jayanth Tadinada and others

Creator and screenplay: Srinivas Avasarala

Producers: Priyanka Dutt and Swapna Dutt

Production Company: Early Monsoon Tales

Genre: Drama/comedy

No of episodes: 7

Streaming site: Amazon Prime

Contrary to the title of the web series Kumari Srimathi (Nitya Menon) is an unmarried 30 year old woman. The setting of this story is Ramarajulanka. Kumari Srimathi and her younger sister were brought up almost single handedly by their mother Devika (Gautami) and also grandmother Seshamma (Talluri Rameshwari). Keshava Rao (Prem Sagar Rajulapati) is the uncle of Srimathi. Srimathi is fighting a court case regarding an ancestral property that her uncle wants for himself.

In a turn of events the court gives Srimathi the option of buying her uncle’s share of property for 38 lakhs. But that is easier said than done. Srimathi who did hotel management course was working as a floor manager. At this point she decides to set up her own restaurant cum bar in her native village.  Devika is already vexed with her daughter’s adamant nature who refuses to get married and this decision only angers her further. The rest of the story is about the challenges that Srimathi faces in her endeavor of becoming a businesswoman and also whether she is able to win the court case.

Stories of family feud is a beaten to death genre but still Gomtesh Upadhye manages to bring a freshness. The newness comes from how he depicts the journey of Srimathi in establishing her restaurant cum bar. He makes a subtle point about how the society differentiates between man and woman while doing the same business.

The director talks about these things in a non preachy manner. Gomtesh Upadhye also deserves credit for his portrayal of Gautami’s character. She is not particularly happy with her daughter’s decisions. Still she comes around and becomes a strong pillar of support at a crucial juncture.

Kumari Srimathi also boasts of some chuckle worthy sequences. One of these include Gautami day dreaming about the consequences of her daughter’s actions. Prem Sagar playing the semi villain has some hilarious punches as well. For example there are moments where he is confused between his twin sons Mani and Phani. What also brings the house down is his understanding of the word ‘nincompoop’.

There is also a love triangle where Thiruveer’s Abhinav and Nirupam’s Sriram compete for Srimathi’s affections. But this track feels out of place in an almost perfect tale.

Nitya Menon’s character is a huge fan of Nani. Nani has a special appearance at a most unexpected juncture. Nani’s presence is only for a few seconds but as viewers we feel a touch of nostalgia on seeing the Ala Modalaindi Jodi again.

Gautami

Cinematographer Mohan Krishna does a good job of capturing Ramarajulanka through his lens. Music directors Staccato & Kamran do a fine job with both songs and background score.

Nitya Menon effortlessly gets into the skin of her character. She portrays the courage and vulnerability of Srimathi in an arresting manner. Gautami and Rameshwari also provide solid support. The three of them together are such a delight to watch.

To sum it up Kumari Srimathi is a well made feministic tale that deserves your time.

Athidhi: Venu Thottempudi’s Web Series Is A Ghost Story With A Message

Director Bharath YG takes the familiar template of a big mansion with scary elements to explore the negative shades in human beings.

The film industry across the languages has a fascination for horror/thriller stories. Periodically, one director or the other has revisited this genre.

Ram Gopala Varma was successful in delivering some genuinely scary films like Urmila Matondkar’s Bhoot (2003).

In the recent past, Amar Kaushik was successful in reinventing the genre with his film Stree (2018). In Stree, the director used the popular legend of “O Stree Kal Aana” (Oh woman, visit tomorrow) and gave it a feministic touch.

On the other hand, directors like Rohit Shetty and Anees Bazmee have made popcorn entertainers with elements of horror.

Now, director Bharath YG takes the familiar template of a big mansion with scary elements in this web series to explore the negative shades in human beings. The shades include lust, anger, and greed.

But the jump scares are presented in a very clichéd manner. It is high time that filmmakers do away with such clichéd elements for scaring the audiences.

Synopsis

Athidhi — now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar — marks Venu Thottempudi’s debut in the OTT space.

Ravi (Venu Thottempudi) is introduced as a writer, who is living with his paralysed wife Sandhya (Aditi Gautam). He is trying to reinvent himself as a writer.

At this point, a mysterious woman Maya (Avantika Mishra) and a Youtuber Savari (Venkatesh Kakumanu), take shelter in his house. Savari makes videos on the non-existence of ghosts.

There is also a cop called Prakash (Ravi Varma). None of these characters are what they appear on the surface. They have secrets of their own. Revealing anything more will not be appropriate.

Positives

One of the things that stands out in Athidhi is the technical department.

Special mention must be made of Kapil Kumar’s background score and Manoj Katasani’s cinematography.

The background music definitely enhances the key scenes.

Manoj Katasani successfully captures the show’s eeriness through his lens.

The most impressive twist is the flashback regarding the ghost. Through it, Bharath YG raises some pertinent points about greed and jealousy.

There is also an underlying message — too much greed will lead to disastrous consequences.

The ghost is presented as a messenger of God to teach this lesson to humans.

Performances

The performances in Athidhi are a mixed bag.

Venu Thottempudi is someone who is mostly associated with comic romantic roles. But here, the actor ventures out of his comfort zone. He pulls off an impressive act, particularly in the key emotional scenes.

The next good performance comes from Avanthika Mishra. Her character has quite a few layers and the actress does a good job.

But Venkatesh Kakumanu overacts as a YouTuber. Instead of feeling sorry for Savari, viewers feel irritated whenever he is on screen.

Aditi Gautam as the wife suffers on account of a half-baked characterisation.

Final take

Athidhi is not an entirely satisfying ride but the show has its moments.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

https://youtu.be/Iuj9k14SHnU

Hostel Days: Entertaining And Relatable, Particularly To Hostelites

Without deviating from the usual tropes associated with this genre, director Aditya Mandala makes it an engaging watch.

Director Aditya Mandala’s Hostel Days narrate the tale of six engineering students and the various experiences that they go through in their hostel life.

At the centre of this story are Sai (Darahas Maturu), Chitharanjan Bhattacharya (Mouli) and Naveen Yadav (Akshay Lagusani). The series primarily focuses on bullies in the hostel, last-minute preparation for exams, falling in love, etc.

Without deviating from the usual tropes associated with this genre, Aditya Mandala makes it an engaging watch.

Subplots

Campus dramas have their own magic irrespective of what age bracket the viewers are in. The best thing about it is, as expected, the camaraderie that the director creates between the three men. It feels organic.

There are also certain subplots which deserve a mention. These include body shaming and the love-hate relationship between parents and teenagers. They, too, are dealt with sensitively.

This web series also benefits from the witty anecdotes given by the college staff appearing at crucial junctures.

For example, there are the cameos of Jhansi and Rajeev Kanakala. These special appearances have been smartly integrated.

Performances

The acting, across the board, is quite impressive.

Darahas Maturu as Sai brings in the required innocence.

Mouli Tanuj as the wise Geek is also in fine form.

However, Akshay Lagusani steals the show with his uninhibited acting.

Among the female leads, Jaiyetri Makana shines the brightest as a youngster who is on the path of self-discovery.

Nevertheless, one major issue with Hostel Days is the hangover of 3 Idiots (2009) in the ragging portions. Though it works as a bonding tool between the three friends, the lasting after-effects of such bullying also needed to be exposed.

Final take

In all, Hostel Days makes for a breezy watch, particularly if you are in the mood for something light-hearted.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

Newsense: A Web Show That Gives An Insight Into The Nexus Of Media And Rural Politics

Sai Prawin Kumar’s directorial Newsense consists of many threads that sustain the interest of the audiences for the second season also.

Stories centred on politics and journalism make great subjects because both are interconnected pillars of our society.

Newsense is one such show. However, this isn’t an easy genre to crack for a director as a certain authenticity is needed, as well as some political knowledge.

Director Sri Prawin Kumar looks at the nexus between politics and the media in small towns. He creates a web of characters who can’t be slotted as black or white.

He does a wonderful job for the most part. The director is also hugely aided by his cast, starting with Navadeep, who disappears into his part.

Synopsis

The backdrop of Newsense is a small town called Madanapalle in Andhra Pradesh, set in the 1990s and 2000s.

The show primarily explores unethical journalism practised by a set of stringers, along with a few politicians who want to grab power at any cost.

Shiva (Navadeep) is a street-smart journalist who belongs to the same category.

But sometimes, he deviates from the norm by presenting the truth (although not completely), and as a result, he gets into trouble.

For Shiva and his fellow stringers, it is a battle between doing the right thing, and also staying alive. Often we see them accepting covers of money from both political parties.

Newsense deals with several issues like the role of media in society, and the impact of sensationalising news, among other things. It does not hesitate to criticise the media and its corrupt practices.

Though the story is set in the Rayalaseema region, the director thankfully doesn’t resort to over-the-top action sequences that the viewers are forced to see in typical action movies.

Newsense grips the viewers from the start with its multi-layered narrative. As viewers, we empathise with the sufferings of the local people, who are sandwiched between two political parties.

For example, there is a farmer who fights for his land, which has been illegally occupied by miscreants, a woman searching for a missing husband, etc. There is certain believability about the problems they face.

Despite the show’s serious tone, there is also some raw humour which comes as a respite.

The chemistry between the leads

Neela is an aspiring news anchor and Shiva’s love interest.

Through the character of Neela, the director touches upon the perspective of a female journalist in a town that is dominated by male journalists. The interaction between Shiva and Neela has a certain playfulness combined with a local flavour.

This has been both wonderfully written and enacted. The chemistry between the duo is spot on. Newsense’s light moments mostly feature Shiva and Neela (played by Bindu Madhavi).

Talking about the leads, both Navadeep and Bindu Madhavi are in very good form.

Navadeep gets into the skin of his character, starting from the dialect. He embraces the several grey shades of his character with aplomb.

Bindu Madhavi lights up the frame whenever she is on screen. She is supremely natural on her part.

Strong technical aspects

What also adds to the impact are the dialogues of Jayasimha. He does a good job of making the viewers introspect without resorting to rhetoric.

The background music of Suresh Bobbili goes well with the flavour of the series, Newsense. There is only one song in the show— Myneeru Pillagada. This track makes for a soothing watch, both for the ears and the eyes.

Three cinematographers are involved with this web series— Anantnag Kavuri, Vedaraman and Prasanna. They capture the rustic terrain wonderfully through their lens.

Nanda Gopal to rescue

There are some moments where the graph does go down.

But thankfully the show gets back on track with the entry of Sub-Inspector Edwin (Nanda Gopal), in the fifth episode.

Nanda Gopal has an arresting presence which makes the viewers look forward to his portions despite the limited screen time. The rest of the supporting actors also make an impact.

Final verdict

Overall this web show is binge-worthy, particularly if you have a keen interest in politics and media. It shows how lives are ruined because of the unholy relationship between two great pillars.