Keshava movie review: This revenge drama thrills, but doesn’t quite explore its potential
Before we talk about Sudheer Varma’s latest film, Keshava, starring Nikhil and Ritu Varma, it’s worth putting few things in perspective about why we watch movies and what we want from them.
Chapter 1: The Beginning
We want to be moved by the drama, we want to empathise with the journey of the protagonist and root for that character, and more than anything else, we hope that the film has enough material to keep us engaged throughout the narration. We watch movies because they put us into the shoes of people, whose lives we probably don’t live or haven’t witnessed. It’s this thrill and the collective joy of experiencing a strong emotion — be it comedy, drama, action — that stays with us. The filmmaker begins the story with a “What if…?” and in the end, you are either convinced or left gasping for more, based on what’s offered to us.
Chapter 2: The Journey
In this context, Keshava falters a lot. There’s plenty of stuff that could have been better and unfolded in a manner which would force us to be on the edge of the seats. But here’s the twist — despite its many flaws, Keshava feels different not because of its conflict or the drama, but how the characters behave in any given situation. Sudheer Varma brings up the dilemma of “What if…?” through the film’s lead character Keshava and gives us plenty of interesting moments, but in doing so, it doesn’t quite add up into an overwhelming experience when you look at the bigger picture.
Chapter 3: Flashback
The film is about a young man’s journey, who wants to avenge the death of his family. Keshava (Nikhil) is this film’s Arya Stark, who has a list of people whom he wants to kill at all costs. But he suffers from a rare medical condition where his heart will stop functioning if he gets tensed or goes into a hyper-excited state. So, he ends up controlling his emotions to an extent that we don’t know what’s going through his mind. In the entire film, this is one of the very few things that’s consistent till the end. 12 years later, Keshava gets his first chance and he strikes a name from his list. Soon, the murders sends ripples across the police department and a special investigation officer, Sharmila Mishra (Isha Koppikar) is appointed to investigate the case. The rest of the story is about the cat and mouse chase that ensues between Keshava and Sharmila.
Chapter 4: The High, And The Rise Of A Star
If you are willing to look beyond the lack of strong conflict and heightened sense of danger that the protagonist has to deal with, one of the best things about Keshava is its visual treatment. It’s spectacularly shot and Telugu cinema has found its new star in cinematographer Divakar Mani. The bright-yellow hues mingle with the green-shades of a small town, thus creating a visual tone that’s rarely seen in Telugu films, and both Sudheer Varma and Divakar Mani treat each scene with so much care that you get sucked into this world quickly.
Then, there’s Prashant Pillai’s background score which adds plenty of tension in some of the key moments of the film. The dialogues are minimal; however, the interplay of sound and visual imagery convey a lot more than what we might expect. Sudheer Varma also deserves credit for imbibing humour in a unique way. Whether it’s pitching Vennela Kishore and Priyadarshi are rivals in college, or introducing Satya as a cab driver in a rather tense situation, the humour in the film works.
For Nikhil, Keshava is the kind of film which tests his scope as an actor. After doing a string of hyper-energetic characters, where he just wouldn’t stop talking, Keshava portrays him as a brooding young man whose silence is louder than anything else. The other two lead actors Ritu Varma and Isha Koppikar deliver impressive performances, and Rao Ramesh springs a surprise in the final act.
Chapter 5: Shallow Ground
The concept of revenge is one of the recurring themes in Telugu films and blame it on the way we’ve grown up watching such films, we expect the characters to have an emotional outburst at some point. But when it comes to Keshava, everything is kept in a subtle manner. We know why a certain thing is happening, but the emotional connect is minimal because Sudheer Varma reveals far too much too soon. The screenplay too leaves little that would surprise us in the end. But the bigger issue here is — there’s barely an obstacle, at least it feels so, for the lead character. He’s smart enough to not leave behind any clues, and even when he gets caught, he gets out of the situation rather quickly. The lack of a strong anti-force to Keshava’s journey turns the drama into something more monotonous, which leaves you wanting for a change. The change doesn’t come until the end.
Chapter 6: The End
In hindsight, it’s quite clear that Keshava isn’t about its story or the conflict. It throws an interesting “What if…?” question to the viewers and the reasons why certain things happen may not sound all that convincing, but it’s hard to ignore the experience of watching a film which feels like breath of fresh air in terms of how it’s made. There’s plenty of stuff to like in the film, a lot of thrills too — but it also leaves you wanting more.