‘Ardh Shatabdi’ movie review: Inconsistent
Earnest performance is not enough to put together Telugu film ‘Ardh Shatabdham’, where romance, caste conflict and a discussion on the Indian Constitution don’t mix seamlessly
half century Recently joined the string of Telugu films, where the story unfolds in a less-explored interior region of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and depicts the original setting. Director Ravindra Pule takes us to a village in Telangana (filmed in the vicinity of Nirmal and Nizamabad) in the early 2000s, where the fault lines of caste still run deep. He questions why archaic norms are followed even at the turn of the new millennium.
- half century
- Cast: Kartik Ratnam, Krishnapriya, Sai Kumar, Naveen Chandra
- Direction: Ravindra Pule
- Streaming On: Aha
This is a relevant premise. When divisive forces are at work, a random event is enough to incite deep hatred and violence, as the film depicts. Ravindra tries to ask why humanity cannot rise above caste divisions to uphold the principles of the Indian Constitution.
Read also | Receive our weekly newsletter ‘First Day First Show’ from the world of cinema to your inbox. You can subscribe for free here
The film looks at the issues of the social fabric through its myriad characters – a former Naxalite, a youth in the throes of a romance and looking for job prospects in Dubai, a police officer disillusioned with carrying out encounter killings. , a politician who does nothing to bow down to injustice, and who is stuck in his own views of rural caste-based social norms.
All of this may sound interesting on paper, but does not translate into a cohesive and absorbing narrative.
The opening sequence gives a glimpse into the cracks in the village, with a chieftain declaring that people of a certain caste must continue what they have been doing for generations, and cannot dream of soaring high. Unaware of all this is the infatuated Krishna (Karthik Ratnam), holding a candle for his childhood sweetheart Pushpa (newcomer Krishnapriya).
The first hour is by Kartik and composer Naval Raja Asi. Karthik succumbs to the gullible innocence required to play his role and is effective. The dreamy one-sided romance is deliberately sluggish in its tempo and the Chennai-based composer accentuates it with melodies that vary from folk songs to film tunes; AR Rahman’s unmistakable echo in a song‘Raasathi’ (Thiruda Thiruda; 1993) although it is not entirely a cappella. While the music, filming and lead pairing are enjoyable to watch, something else happens.
New and complex characters, perplexed by the ways of society or battling the demons within them, immediately emerge. After an innocuous incident, there is destruction in the village, the story begins.
Some scenes showing violence in the village are amateurish. And a lot happens without coordination. Cop Ranjith’s (Navin Chandra) anger is understandable and so is former rebel Ramanna’s (Sai Kumar) internal conflict. The discussion between a top police officer (Ajay) and an MLA (Sudhakar) on what the Indian Constitution means and whether the killing of innocents can be justified could have been interesting. But it gets boring like the rest of the film.
For the most part, the acting remains serious and that’s the only saving grace. Krishnapriya is expressive and her screen presence is spectacular. Naveen Chandra grabs attention whenever he is in the frame, but one wishes his character was written better. The same goes for Sai Kumar and Amani, whose presence could have been used even better. Many other actors including Ajay and Raja Ravindra are ruined.
What half century Kami is a narrative with a beating heart that can make us root for the characters.
(Ardh Shatabdham flows on Aha)