AWE! (2018)

  • Hindi Title: Antaryudh
  • Release Date: 16/02/2018
  • Cast: Kajal Aggarwal, Nithya Menon, Regina Cassandra, Eesha Rebba, Priyadarshi Pullikonda, Srinivas Avasarala, Murali Sharma
  • Direction: Prasanth Varma

Awe! is one of those rare truly “HATKE” fares that we seldom get in Indian Cinema

Radha, a girl with a bad history with men meets her parents in a cafe. The meeting is with the intent to introduce Krish who she wants to marry and settle down with. Nala, a down on luck guy somehow salvages a job as a chef. The owner of the restaurant fires one order after another of exotic dishes which Nala prepares with the help of YouTube tutorials. Suddenly, the WIFI fails and he is left clueless on how to proceed. To his rescue comes a fish in the tank, Nani who Nala can hear and understand. Yogi, an egoistic magician unnecessarily harasses a kid, Moksha who likes doing simple magic tricks for the customers of her café. Distraught, Moksha informs him that he is not the greatest magician of the world as he believes. Moksha informs Yogi that the best magician in the world is, in fact, present at the same cafe. Yogi decides to pick a fight with this man and prove his supremacy.

Shiva, a watchman dreams of building a Time Machine which he can then use to meet with his deceased parents. He meets a Persian girl, is smitten by her beauty and wants to impress her with his knowledge of science. It is at this moment that a paraplegic woman, Parvati, arrives and informs him that she is him from the future. Meera, a cocaine addict teams up with her boyfriend to rob an investor who is scheduled to come to a café with a bag full of money. The only problem is that she starts seeing a ghost after she puts on a pendant that she found logged in a tree inside the café. Kali, a mentally disturbed girl, who is linked to all these characters in some way, makes her way to a restaurant on her birthday and orders “Death by Chocolate”.

Awe! is an interesting film and it became so popular because it gave viewers a unique experience whether or not they agreed with the end result. Each of the stories in question has a distinct character and feel to it. There is comedy, drama, thrill, surprises, horror, and tragedy to be found in these stories. What works in the favor of the film is how complete each of these stories is and how well they communicate and remain faithful to the genre that they are a part of. In addition, they are effectively interlinked to form one complete narrative.

The story involving Nala and the talking fish is mostly comedy and even though I watched it in a Hindi-Dub version, there were moments when I was rolling with laughter. The Hindi dubbing was on point and it was critical to the success of this portion as most of its comedy was extracted from the quirky exchanges between the character of Nala and the talking fish, Nani. The track involving Meera is somewhat bent towards horror. The scene where she sees a ghost for the first time would shock anyone as you are not repaired for such a jolt. The portion involving Shiva can be put in the science-fiction/ thriller genre and even though it is the weakest of the stories, it plays out well and adds to the overall feel of the film.

The success of these individual segments was dependent on how well they were acted by the actors involved. Some of the actors stand out while others do a decent job. For me, Nithya Menen radiated off the screen. She was one of those actors who held on to your attention simply by the way she looked and essayed her character. She was interesting and ensured that we paid attention to her bit which made the portion involving her breezy and engrossing. It must also be noted that her portion deals with an issue that was hitherto completely dusted under the rug in Telugu cinema. I have a special liking for Regina Cassandra. For me, she is one of the best-looking actresses in Indian film industry today. Keeping that aside, she portrays a drug addict to perfection. Just to understand how well she does with the character, all you need to do is see how she rubs her nose after powdering it. There is a sense of realism to it that is unmissable. Add to that her odd mannerisms and exceptional makeup and you have a character that you want to be on screen for the whole runtime.

Priyadarshi Pullikonda and Murli Sharma are hilarious in their respective parts. Murli Sharma is known for playing mostly antagonists but here his character is hilarious and loveable especially after the ordeal he has to endure. Priyadarshi Pullikonda wonderfully brings out the surprise and shock that Nala experiences when he starts communicating with a fish and then with a Bonsai. The artists who dubbed for the Bonsai and the fish in the Hindi version did a fantastic job. I am pretty sure that the Telegu version must be uproariously fun in these portions as the parts of the Bonsai and fish were voiced by Ravi Teja and Nani himself. Kajal Aggarwal as Kali is effective. It must be noted that she is the anchor that links all the stories in question, and she had to be effective for the rest of the film to make sense in the end. Srinivas Avasarala and Devadarshini as different versions of the same time traveling person are apt. However, I must admit that this story arch was the least effective and at many junctures felt too far-fetched. Its importance in the narrative, however, cannot be ignored.

A lot of the film’s fun comes from two huge jolts — one at the halfway mark and the other right at the end. The ones who enjoy these two jolts will also enjoy the film. To grasp the final reveal of the film, one must follow the last 15-20 minutes of the film, understand it and relate it with whatever has happened in the narrative thus far. The ones who are able to do that effectively are the ones who are going to appreciate this film. Unfortunately, for me, the film was spoiled by some friends and I knew every surprise coming my way. That essentially robbed me of the impact of the climax which was the biggest treat of the film. Even after that, I found the climax startling and well-executed. There have been multiple Hollywood films that have played with the idea that this film presents but it cannot be denied that the makers have created an effective story.

Awe! is the kind of film that will either be loved or loathed by anyone who watches it. The way a person reacts to it would be dependent on how well or poorly he/she receives the two major twists in the tale. It will also be dependent on the fact that whether we or not he/she is able to accept the concept that the film tries to sell and its execution. Since this is such a performance-driven film, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that for the viewers to like the film, they must be involved with the character and that can happen only if they are engrossed by the performances. I really enjoyed almost all the performances.

The film makes you think about the eventuality of all that you have seen and if at all that was possible. A mind is a strange place that can encompass worlds. It is also where stories are created and destroyed every second. If you can accept that in the real sense of the term, you will love Awe! Whether you finally like it or not is inconsequential. What is important is that it is a very different film from what we get on a regular basis and we as a viewer must give it a chance. Even if you don’t like it, the reasons for you not liking the film will spark debates and discussion which would prove to be food for thoughts. And that is exactly what I loved this film.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Here is the link to the full film:

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