W/O Ram movie review: Lakshmi Manchu's sincerity holds together this occasionally gripping thriller
It is the background score that comes to a scene’s rescue when nothing else seems to be working in W/O Ram.
It is difficult not to sympathise with the fate of a hapless woman running from pillar to post, seeking justice for her husband’s death. For a brief period of time, it feels like Lakshmi Manchu-starrer W/O Ram might fall in the same bracket as Vidya Balan’s tour de force Kahani. Yet, the two films differ vastly in terms of their tone and narrative. After a point, you begin to slowly understand that what writer and director Vijay Yelakanti really wants to say through W/O Ram is not what it seems. Nothing is what it seems to be in the film, but then there are no elaborate set pieces which seem intriguing. When the twist is revealed, it does not exactly as a big surprise. And just when you feel underwhelmed with the whole journey, Vijay throws another big surprise in the end which forces us to reevaluate the protagonist’s journey and why she was so desperate.
The film is about Deeksha (Manchu) who loses her baby and husband (Samrat) in a freak accident. When the police officials meet her, she tells them that it was a murder. Soon, after she returns home, Deeksha understands that she will have to take it upon herself to find the culprit. With a police constable Chari (Priyadarshi) coming to her aid, Deeksha pieces together the puzzle about what the series of incidents which led to her husband’s murder.
At the outset, W/O Ram toys around with all the necessary elements that make up a thriller: a corrupt cop (Shrikanth Iyengar), a helpful policeman (Priyadarshi), an untraceable villain and plenty of suspense. And almost every road seems to have a dead end. When Deeksha takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery behind her husband’s death, it sets her on a wild goose chase. For a while, we are clueless about what she is upto and how one thing connects to another. Moreover, it does not feel like the stakes are high for her at any point, even when she comes pretty close to cracking the whole puzzle. Since we barely know the equation between Deeksha and Ram, we are forced to take her desperation at face value to really empathise with her. If this was not enough, Yelakanti carefully explains everything in detail, especially about how cops conduct their investigation and find clues, without adding anything that we do not already know. Is there anyone who does not know or has not heard about DNA evidence? I do not know. But Deeksha feigns ignorance when she hears about it from Chari. For some reason, most part of the film feels like you are watching a watered down version of an interesting thriller.
Yet, when you connect the dots backwards, it all makes sense. You understand why Deeksha had to behave in a certain manner to gain trust of Chari and few others around her. Towards the end, her intentions outweigh her methods and you find yourself rooting for her. As a result, the film feels even more relevant in times like these where you are constantly exposed to news about crimes against women and sexual harassment. The epilogue of the film, in particular, packs a punch and changes your entire perception about Deeksha and the film itself. If only the rest of the film too was filled with so much soul, agony and pain that we witness in the final stretch of the film!
Among the cast, it is Manchu who holds the film together with her sincere effort to make us empathise with her. W/O Ram is among her better films in recent times. At least, it has a purpose. Priyadarshi delivers a good performance as a police constable. He plays a key role in setting up the mood and tone of the story.
Newcomer Yelakanti has a good story to tell, but what W/O Ram lacks is technique to make for an intriguing thriller. A lot of times, it is the background score that comes to a scene’s rescue when nothing else seems to be working. But where the film truly struggles is when it comes to finding its rhythm, which does not happen until the end of the first half. It is gripping in bits and pieces, and then all of a sudden, the narrative falls flat. At a run time of just under two hours, W/O Ram does not quite hit the right notes all the time, despite the effect it intends to achieve. However, the final stretch leaves you with a lot to think about. By then, nothing else matters, except for Deeksha and millions of women around the world.
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