ZOMBIE REDDY (2021)

Sajja Teja in a still from Zombie Reddy
  • Platform: Aha
  • Release Date: 5/2/2021
  • Cast: Sajja Teja, Anandhi, Daksha Nagarkar, RJ Hemanth, Getup Srinu, Naga Mahesh
  • Director: Prashant Varma

 

A no holds barred Zombie-Comedy (Zom Com) that should have had a better climax

Zombie Reddy reminded me of some of the past Indian revenge dramas where the audience was served the story of two families usually warring over a failed marriage or property dispute. The families would always start off as closely related but the eventual failure of a matrimonial union or some other dispute would result in bad blood. It would then take over the senses of the men and women and make them commit atrocities on one another. It would then turn out to be a cutthroat who kills who first story from thereon.

These stories have had different treatments from the filmmakers. While films like Virasat (1997, Priyadarshan) took a grim and gritty approach to the rivalry between two families, a film likes Hulchal (2004) by the same director was essentially a rip-roaring comedy. Hence, while Zombie Reddy sets out to tell the same story of a family feud between two equally powerful families, it was left to be seen what approach Prashant Varma would take to the storytelling. After his impressive Awe! I was also interested to see what would be the add-on elements here and whether it would be alluring enough.

The film intelligently weaves in the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on its plot and documents a doctor’s research for a cure of the pandemic that ultimately results in him letting loose a worse plague than the Covid in the form of a mutagen that converts men into bloodthirsty Zombies. His first test subject turns into a zombie, escapes, and unfortunately bites one of the protagonists of the film. This character then goes on to spread the mutagen among an entire village as every victim of his attacks invariably spreads the mutagen to a host of other victims by attacking them. This is a customary trope of every zombie-action film and the makers of Zombie Reddy make efficient use of it to further their story, incite thrills, and ultimately put up a spectacle.

RJ Hemanth in a still from Zombie Reddy

The primary plot of the film revolves around, Mario (Sajja Teja), a game developer who unwillingly comes to a village in Rayalaseema to get his game’s buggy code fixed by his programmer, Kalyan (RJ Hemanth). Kalyan is getting married in the village and is pumped about it. Upon his arrival, Mario learns that the family in which Kalyan is getting married has a deadly enemy in the nearby village who has taken a vow to murder anyone who marries into their enemy’s family. Mario also faces off against this enemy in a do-or-die encounter that makes him understand the gravity of the situation and what a big risk Kalyan is in.

Sadly, naïve Kalyan is totally oblivious of the situation and doesn’t believe Mario. Thus Mario is forced to take it upon himself to save the life of his friend from the multitude of attacks that are destined to come his way. To top it all up, the villagers of the village are gradually being attacked by the ones affected by the aforementioned mutagen and are gradually converting into zombies. By the wedding night, the entire village turns into a marauding horde of Zombies and it is left up to Mario and a handful of other survivors to fend off against these beings from hell.

Prashant Varma (Awe!, 2018) knows how to weave an interesting and solid story and we are given ample proof of that in this film. While we all know that the film will use the zombie action element as its USP, one cannot ignore the fact that Varma doesn’t cut corners on his basic premise. By the end of the film, we are given satisfactory answers to questions like why was there an enmity between the families, how the enmity was resolved, who was the cause of the enmity, etc. By doing this, the director ties the basic story perfectly and leaves no room for unanswered questions or dissatisfied viewers. The characters in this track are well developed and while the comic reliefs are as caricaturish as before, we can understand the motivations of the characters for doing what they are shown doing and we can relate to them. This enhances the appeal of this track.

The portion involving the zombie apocalypse keeps playing as an undercurrent and as the film reaches its climax, this portion becomes more and more important and dominates the proceedings on the screen. One has to agree that the director can explain the inception of the calamity and then goes on to believably layout and show how the menace spread throughout the village. Sadly, how this portion ends left me unconvinced and underwhelmed. They could have easily thought of something better but it appeared as if Prashant Varma wanted to take the most conducive and unconvincing path to culminate his film. The script for the film is attributed to Scriptville, a company that creates scripts for films, adds films, etc. I couldn’t understand how a company like that could have handed a script like this that felt nearly hurried in the end. A few re-writes would have made this film a whole lot better.

Anandhi in a still from Zombie Reddy

The fact also remains that in a film like this where comedy has an overbearing impact on the proceedings, it is impossible to make people care for the characters as we all know that at the end of it all, everything will be fine. I would have loved to see a film like this sans the comedy with both the family feud and the zombie tracks paying out without any sense of respite. It would have served the film well to have had major characters dying and administering genuine human drama and dread into the narrative. That would have made this film a different film altogether. A similar feat was pulled off exceptionally well in the recent Train to Busan and the much older 28 days Later.

The performances in the film were good and each of the actors pulled off their respective characters with efficiency. Sajja Teja and Anandhi as Nandini lead from the front. Their love and hate relationship and later how they take to the action sequences elevated their performances further. Naga Mahesh as the primary antagonist had the potential to strike fear in the heart of the audience but his character is approached in a very different way towards the end of the film. But that doesn’t take away anything from his stupendous rendering of the antagonist.

The film also has its technicalities in place. I loved how they shot and edited it. The visual effects might have had their share of deficiencies but that was most likely due to budgetary constraints. The fact that the deficiencies are covered up well enough through the rendering and editing of these sequences also speaks volumes about how well the technicalities of the film were dealt with. Zombie Reddy is an engrossing watch as it tells its story well and uses the gimmick of zombies interestingly and believably. The only problem is with the way it ends, and I would have loved for it to be a serious film. That however is a personal take and most of the audiences might still have a great time with this film. 

 Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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