BHAAGAMATHIE (2018)

  • Release Date : 26/1/2018
  • Cast : Anushka Shetty, Jayaram, Unni Mukundan, Asha Sarath
  • Director : G. Ashok

Bhaagamathie chronicles the story of Chanchala IPS (Anushka Shetty), a confidante of Minister Eshwar Prasad (Jayaram). She is in jail on the suspicion of murdering her husband Shakthi (Unni Mukundan). When the system decides to bring down Eshwar Prasad, a minister who is fast turning out to be more powerful than the CM and who has a squeaky clean political life, they turn to Chanchala to dig up dirt in Eshwar’s life. Chanchala is taken out of custody and into a secluded and dilapidating bungalow known to have been the home of Bhaagamathie. Bhaagamathie was a queen from the folklore who is now feared as an unsatisfied and deadly spirit that lurks in the bungalow. As the interrogation starts strange occurrences unleash a chain of horror not only on the men involved in the process but also on Chanchala who starts losing track of what is real and what is fiction.

Bhaagamathie is an interesting film. The power of the film lies in its deception and it does extremely well with it. I have no way of getting into the pluses of the film in this sphere without giving out spoilers. Those who haven’t seen the film, you have been warned. For a great part of the film, Bhaagamathie appears to be a horror film and it is this misdirection that works wonders in delivering the final punch. The director lures us into a narrative that starts off in a manner that we all know too well. Once we are inside the bungalow we know full well what is happening. The tropes of the horror genre are used effectively and what we get is a claustrophobic horror film where our attention is on whether Chanchala will be saved or not and how will her action affect Eshwar Prasad.

However, as we walk into the final half hour of the film, it turns into a whole new beast. A film that had made us believe in the supernatural firmly, takes it all away from us in a matter of seconds with a kind of jolt that is bound to shake the most inane of viewers. Bhaagamathie now turns into a political thriller. Even the massacre scene that the film starts with assumes a whole new meaning. The squeaky-clean Eshwar Prasad is not clean anymore. Chanchala seems like being his accomplice after all. The evil system starts feeling good. I haven’t experienced this kind of conflicts in a commercial South Indian film for quite some time now. That I believe is one of the defining factors of the film and one of its greatest forte. That’s not all.

Even before we reach this point, the film misguides us further by showing a major character plotting behind Eshwar’s back indicating that he might be the primary baddie and Eshwar might not be aware of his dealings. And if that was not enough, after we have made up our mind that Chanchala and Eshwar are evil, something more happens that takes the film in a whole new direction. And that’s not all. The final scene brings with it a whole new twist. I urge you to honestly think and ponder on the fact that when was the last time, a film took you on such a whirlwind ride that too because of its screenplay.

Anushka Shetty is a good actress and a lot of the film rides on her acting prowess. She does an exceedingly good job with her role. Chanchala starts off as a self-sure and calm character who has some subtle nudges to have been a Good Samaritan. Once in the Bungalow, she turns in a new leaf and goes exceedingly crazy and that is at par with some of the best crazy acts of Bollywood and even Hollywood. Even in that, during some of the sequences involving flashbacks, she looks sublime and in perfect sync with the mood and flow of those sequences. It’s not an easy thing to do and Anushka deserves a round of applause for her unflinching focus and effort.

Jayaram has an interesting character written for him and he does an excellent job with it.  When he is shown to be a good man, he gives enough hints (all physical, gestures) that give the viewers a hint to the fact that he might not be the spotlessly clean and soft minister that he portrays himself as. I loved his act towards the end when he comes out in the open and shares one of the best sequences of the film with Anushka in a mental institution. Eshwar’s mannerisms are a diversion in itself throughout the film and it is perfectly brought out by Jayaram. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Jayaram and Anushka act out the film in between them.

Asha Sarath as Vaishnavi Natarajan, Joint Director, CBI is the lead interrogator of Chanchala. She models her role on the immortal character that she played in Drishyam, Drishya, and Papanasam. The character here cuts interestingly close to the aforementioned roles and yet is never overbearing on those acts. Even her character goes through an arc through the film which was in many ways a valued addition to the whole shebang.

Bhaagamathie is a wonderful raining evening or afternoon watch. People looking for horror will love it. People looking for thrills will love it too. It is neither too preachy nor too trashy. It hits the right balance between the two and creates a niche for its content. Propelled by great performances and wonderful execution, this is easily one of the must-watch Southie films of the year.

Rating : 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars) 

 

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