Falaknuma Das movie review: Telugu remake of Angamaly Diaries is true to its world, but unfair to its characters
Falaknuma Das is like eating mutton biryani. The aroma and taste knocks you out for sometime, and once you get used to the flavour, it loses the very charm that made you crave for it.
Falaknuma Das, directed by Vishwak Sen, makes no bones about its unabashed love for a part of Hyderabad which you do not see often in movies. This is a film which does not show you visuals of Charminar, Jubilee Hills, or even HITEC city to establish its milieu. There is barely anything that will showcase how much Hyderabad has changed over the years.
The milieu of Falaknuma Das is often stuff of legends among Hyderabadis about the places to eat and see in the ‘other side’ of the city in order to get a taste of the real Hyderabad. The smell and sound of Falaknuma, Barkas and Malakpet come alive in this story. It is a testimony to Sen’s love for the city and people whom you do not see on screen. It is his love letter to the city that is slowly forgetting its roots.
The film is a remake of a Malayalam film Angamaly Diaries. Actor-director Sen finds the right setting to narrate the story. Set in Falaknuma, the film revolves around Das (Sen) and his gang of friends, who grow up idolising a local thug, Shankar. Das sets up a cable business and is happy with his life which is filled with his friends, food, and alcohol. And then, one fine day, Shankar is killed by his own relatives, which sets off a series of events which changes Das’ life. The rest of the story is about how Das navigates his life through various ups and downs.
Most part of the film is set in the time frame between 2005 and 2009. It is essentially meant to retain the old world charm of Hyderabad. And Sen sticks to the setting until the end. The people in Falaknuma live in a world of their own and are quite particular about dealing with issues all by themselves. We are introduced to several interesting characters, including Peg Pandu (Uttej), Saidulu (Tharun Bhascker), Ravi (Vivek) and Raju (Sanjith), who play a key role in Das’ life, apart from his close set of friends. In their world, fights break out over the smallest of reasons. Sometimes, it could be a simple stare which is interpreted as a threat. At times, it is over food and who gets the last remaining plate of boti curry; and then, there are times, when the problems are big, like who gets to control the meat business in Jiyaguda, one of the largest livestock markets in Hyderabad. The flavour is Falaknuma Das is distinctly local, and you can feel its pulse in almost every scene.
Yet, Falaknuma Das is replete with problems once you shift your focus to the characters. The banter between Das, Pandu and their friends is interspersed with intense sequences, which capture the rage of Das, the rawness of Ravi-Raju (the antagonists of the film) and the tone of Saidulu (a police officer), which is in stark contrast with the awkward love stories of Das. The segment which explores the relationship between Das and his mother and sister is not meaty enough to camouflage the parts where Das goes through an internal conflict about his life. In a way, the film comes alive when it gets into a kinetic mode which taps into the rage of Falaknuma Das and is borderline boring when the focus is elsewhere.
The women in Falaknuma Das are the most ignored lot. Neither their characterisation nor the actors themselves, especially Harshita and Saloni, get enough space to make their voice heard,. Their parts are so poorly handled that you just want them to get done with whatever they were trying to achieve. Further, the conflict between the protagonist (Das) and the antagonists (Ravi and Raju) leaves a lot to be desired, although there are flashes of brilliance occasionally. You can feel it when Ravi makes a bold statement about who the boss is at Falaknuma, and how Das reacts to that. But the intensity of their confrontation fizzles out after a point. Both Vivek and Sanjith make a strong impression with their gritty performances. Also, Tharun Bhascker, who plays a cop, is superb in his role.
Sen, who wrote the screenplay, apart from acting and directing the film, has a lot going for him, and shoulders the responsibility of the entire film. To draw a parallel, he is like The Hulk, who needs to get angry to get into the Hulk mode. The anger of Das is what stands out in Falaknuma Das, and everything else is either a medium to spark that anger or to calm him down. He is good in his angry young man’s avatar, but the romantic and emotional sequences feel half-baked. All the actors who played the role of Das’ friends deliver good performances. Full credit to them for channeling their attitude and the dialect extremely well.
Vidya Sagar, the cinematographer, contributes immensely to bring alive this world, be it staying true to the the setting or holding your attention through long takes. Music director Vivek Sagar’s background score holds the film together. For all the good work that the film does in the first act, it loses its grip on the narrative in the second half, which packs in way too much plot and does not quite delve into the psyche of the characters as much. And I could not help but think that watching Falaknuma Das is like eating mutton biryani. The aroma and taste knocks you out for sometime, and once you get used to the flavour, it loses the very charm that made you crave for it.
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