Virupaksha: A Solid Thriller That Is High On Both Atmospherics And Content

Director Karthik Varma Dandu proves to be a worthy successor to his master Sukumar

Virupaksha (Telugu)                3.5 out of 5

Starcast: Sai Dharam Tej, Samyuktha, Sunil, Bramhaji, Ajay, Rajeev Kanakala and others

Direction and story: Karthik Varma Dandu

Screenplay: Sukumar

Producers: B.V. S. N Prasad and Sukumar

Production Company: Sri Venkateswara Cine Chitra

Genre: Horror/thriller

Running time: 2 hours and 26 minutes

Thrillers are one of the most difficult genres to execute for any filmmaker. The reason for that is – then the director has to ensure that audiences are constantly on the edge of their seat and keep guessing what will happen next. It becomes even trickier when the director has chosen a subject with undertones of paranormal activities concerning superstitions.

First time director Karthik Varma Dandu sets the story of Virupaksha in the fictional village of Rudravaram. The film begins off in the year 1979 where a couple is burnt alive by the villagers on the suspicion of practicing black magic. The dying couple puts a curse that the entire village will die by next Puskharam. From here we fast forward to 1991 where a series of deaths start happening. It is at this stage that we are introduced to Surya (Sai Dharam Tej). Surya is a city dweller who comes to his ancestral village with his mother and a friend.

On the way they are greeted by a crow which according to his mother is a bad omen but Surya downplays her concerns. Nandini (Samyukta Menon) is the daughter of the village head played by Rajeev Kanakala. Nandini suffers with seizures from time to time. Her health is quite delicate. Surya and his family are hosted by Savitri (Anchor Shyamala). Surya starts developing an interest in Nandini. He starts flirting with her in the typical style of Sukumar heroes. Some lovey dovey moments take place. But things take a turn for bad on the day of the main puja.

Team Virupakasha with Allu Aravind

A missing villager comes from forest in a possessed state and dies inside the sanctum of the temple. This obviously sends shock waves and an elaborate purification ritual is ordered. The priest (Sai Chand) tells the Sarpanch that the village borders should be closed. The priest further adds that outsiders should no longer remain in the village. Surya and his family prepare to leave, but half way through he has to come back to save Nandini’s life who has another seizure.

Meanwhile Nandini’s friend Sudha (Sonia Singh) plans to escape from the village with her beloved. One night she takes the plunge and leaves for the railway station. There she witnesses her lover being hit by a train. A few days later Sudha herself is found dead. In between two more murders happen. One of them includes Savitri. The rest of the story is about how all these mysteries are solved.

Virupaksha grips you from the start with the way Karthik Varma Dandu builds up the ambience. The screenplay written by director Sukumar is filled with many layers. Karthik Varma Dandu and Sukumar come up with some valid arguments against prejudices and superstitious beliefs that stem from ignorance.

Sonia Singh

Karthik Varma Dandu should also be credited for not making Surya larger than life. There are no pointless songs that deviate the audiences from the main core.

The cinematography of Shamdat Sainudeen adds certain eeriness to the proceedings. The sound effects are very effective in raising some genuine scares. On more than one occasion the viewers would want to close their eyes.

The twists and turns in Virupaksha engross you till the end. At no point we feel the duo has taken us for a ride. A special mention must be made of the revelation at the end. The climax punch works even more because of the way the foreshadowing has been done.

In spite of all its positives there are certain areas where the film is a little problematic, especially in portraying the children of burnt couple suspected of black magic. The way they go about their revenge using the same superstitions does not go well with the tonality of the film. Also some of the costumes worn by Sai Dharam Tej and Samyukta Menon come across as too modern for the period the film is set in.

Sai Dharam Tej delivers a convincing performance as a man who is on a mission to save his love and the village. Samyukta Menon has a meaty role and the actress does complete justice to her part. She particularly shines in the emotionally charged moments.

Out of the supporting characters Rajeev Kanakala and Ajay shine the most. Rajeev Kanakala melts your heart as a concerned father. Ajay on the other hand comes across as a breath of fresh air in his role of an Aghora. He commands the viewer’s attention with his body language and overall demeanor. Sai Chand also does a neat job in his role of a priest.

Virupaksha is a pure and honest thriller that tackles some important issues prevalent in our society.

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