Zombie Reddy movie review: Prashant Varma’s zombie comedy adds a fun twist to an action-packed family drama
Set in the backdrop of the rivalry between two villages in Rayalaseema, Zombie Reddy follows a group of friends who reunite two families in the midst of a zombie attack in the region.
The opening shot of Zombie Reddy, written and directed by Prashant Varma, is a sight to behold. Somewhere in Rayalaseema, a bird, flying over a temple, is struck by lightning. Call it a miracle or a stroke of luck, the bird survives.
It works both as a symbol of a mythical element in the story and also, a reminder that when stakes are high, there will always be a divine intervention — a quintessential plot point in Telugu action dramas. After all, the biggest threat to the characters in the story is a zombie attack, and nothing less than a miracle can stop these half-dead creatures to restore harmony and peace.
The story begins right after the Indian government eases the COVID-19 lockdown guidelines, and it follows Mario (Teja Sajja) and a couple of his friends, played by Daksha Nagarkar and Kireeti Damaraju, who go to a village in Kurnool district to attend a friend’s wedding.
All four of them have been working on a video game, which goes viral overnight; however, little do they know that the wedding itself is going to push them into a game of death where rival families are baying for blood. On top of it, a mysterious virus turns people into zombies in the same region. The whole story is about how Mario and his friends save the day and reunite the two families, while trying to survive the zombie attack.
The film follows a similar template as seen in many factionalism-based films like Indra, Samarasimha Reddy, and Narasimha Naidu where family disputes span decades, during which there’s plenty of loss of life on both sides. Thankfully, Prashant Varma avoids making these cliches seem too comical, even if the stakes don’t seem as high as those seen in other such films.
Right from the moment Mario gets a rundown of what’s happening in the village, his sole aim is to rescue his friend who’s about to get married. On the downside, Prashant takes plenty of time to set up the story and it makes you a tad restless, but once the characters begin fearing for their lives due to the zombie attack, the film turns out to be far better and enjoyable.
Since the film is a blend of two distinct genres — an action drama set in Rayalaseema and zombie apocalypse — it does feel like two stories are unfolding at the same time. As the narrative progresses, it becomes evident that the real drama in the story lies in how the characters survive the zombies.
The other aspect of rivalry between two families takes a backseat and it is just used as a reason to justify why the characters are trapped in that region. Prashant Varma cleverly shifts between these two levels, just like a game of Mario, and as the number of zombies keeps piling up, the level of threat keeps increasing. At some level, Zombie Reddy is like a multiplayer game, where people on one side have to form a team and come up with a strategy to both kill zombies lunging at them, without thinking twice, and also flee when they are outnumbered. There’s even a hat tip to Avengers, although the weapons used by them are more Indian, per se.
In a film where survival instinct is the only driving force for the protagonist, Teja Sajja pulls it off quite well. It’s easy to reimagine him as a character in a video game, who would do anything to survive until the end, and the youngster lends credence to the character. Daksha Nagarkar gets her share of glory in the action-filled moments. And then, there’s Anandhi, who has a meaty role with an interesting backstory, and the actress makes a solid impression. It also scores well in terms of its cinematography, music, and make-up.
Although the film begins with a prologue referring to COVID-19 and lockdown, it really finds its rhythm when the zombie attack builds to a crescendo in the third act of the film. In that moment, all we see is a bunch of characters, setting aside their differences, trying to survive, and hoping for a miracle.
Zombie Reddy is the first zombie film in Telugu cinema and to its credit, it does a fairly good job in simplifying the storytelling to the bare essentials. The plot itself banks on a tried-and-tested formula, but with zombies at the centre of the story, you can’t help but grin at the fun twist to the factionalism-based movies. The sight of hundreds of zombies chasing humans somewhere in Andhra Pradesh doesn’t seem too far-fetched on screen. This, perhaps, is the sign of the fear that a mysterious virus can wreak havoc anywhere anytime, and zombies are a manifestation of our collective fear. That’s what makes Zombie Reddy click.
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