Once in a while, a film comes in Tollywood which changes the way content is presented by breaking the rules of conventional film grammar. “Kshanam” is one such movie which has become the buzz of the Telugu Film Industry as the super slick thriller that keeps you on the edge till the end. Released almost a fortnight ago, the film was made on a bootstrapping budget of just Rs.1.05 crores as per the makers but raked in about Rs.6 crores worldwide. That makes it a stunning success with audiences of all ages getting attracted to it by droves.
The film is now releasing in the top metros in the country outside the Telugu states with subtitles in English. Even as remake rights are being bid in Hindi and Tamil, “Kshanam” is buzzing with screening of the film with subtitles going on in Pune, Goa, Mumbai and Delhi. This is a huge leap for films without a star tag where a film’s sole content and screenplay became its major selling points alongwith the number of theatres going up with each passing week. It happened with films like “Aithe” released in 2003 where the urban audience demanded more screens.
The film’s success needs more than just a passing analysis. Let’s look at what makes this a roaring sensation for this decade.
Budget & Story Depth: Making it on a budget is one thing but sticking to it is another. But 25 year old debutant director Ravikanth Parepu achieved the impossible once he heard the story from Adivi Sesh who played the hero in the film. Roping in star producer PVP has been a coup but cutting down the budget even as the story crisis-crosses San Francisco, Hyderabad, and Vizag is quite an achievement. But it can’t be a fluke if the budget was not beaten down to its essentials and the discretionary spend. Every thing from the starcast to the technicians chosen was so meticulous with a cost-cutting bias that the producer Potluri heaved a sigh of relief. Shot in 90 days, the film’s running time is just 120 minutes and has low-key Stars Adivi Sesh and Adah Sharma as the lead pair. Everybody else was either new or their roles were not in their typical mould – like Vennela Kishore, Satyam Rajesh. Music Composer Sricharan P and Cinematographer Shaneil Deo gave a fresh output that will get them to bag new offers. Planning-wise, the film seems to have been meticulously planned from the time it seeded as an idea in Adivi Sesh’s mind as an afterthought after some toddlers in Jubilee Hills asked him to drop in his car (So he thought, What if strangers kidnap a school-going kid and developed a tight story). Once the story got okayed and the screenplay tightened between Adivi Sesh and Ravikant, the frames took on exciting narrative.
Apart from the tight budget, the movie’s narration is taut and honest which dispenses with cinematic manipulation usually seen in thrillers. The story is presented in an episodic fashion where the crime is shown first and then the reasons for the crime are dilineated by the different characters in the drama until the hero Adivi Sesh enters the scene. In the film, he plays Adah Sharma’s ex-boyfriend who calls him in an SOS once her daughter is kidnapped. Suspense builds up with many layers of the drama – from drugs to adoption to abuse until the blinder of a climax at the 115th minute of the film. Not a single shot is wasted in the film and most of the shots only either enhance the film or the moods generated from the soul of the film – the romantic track. Even shots of Vizag, Hyderabad and San Francisco appear scenic and iconic – shot with lot of style. The result: A film which has become a multi-bagger for producer PVP who made costly-budget failures in the past.
Performances: Since the story collapses elements of action, romance and suspense, the performances need to be at another level. Director RaviKanth succeeds in getting the perfect starcast. Almost everybody sizzles in their roles. Anasuya Bharadwaj as the Cop shines as a no-nonsense woman who means business. Two regular comedians Vennela Kishore and Satyam Rajesh make capital out of unconventional roles which egg them on to deliver more than just a comic sense of timing – and they push out of comfort zone ably. It’s an unusual feat for a director who wants to think beyond the stereotypes of what regular actors are capable of – this is the real surprise package in the film. Incidentally, both the director Ravikanth Parepu and his Assistant Director played cameo roles in the film – Ravikant is the Marwari Seth who comes in a blink-and-miss appearance while the Asst Director is the man who Cop Chowdhary frequently refers to as Reddy. Adivi Sesh and Adah Sharma steal the show with their wonderful chemistry and intense acting. Sesh has come a long way since making a debut in “Panjaa” with his hysterical performance. Finding stardom has not been easy for him but with his talents as a screenwriter and an actor who can think different cinema, he is sure to make more impact on Tollywood in days to come.
Technical Mastery & Marketing: Apart from a dazzling screenplay which never loosens any grip on the story, the film’s presentation makes it a thrilling experience to watch. The title of the film comes in the 28th minute much after the starting titles roll on. Music Composer Sricharan gives an apt background score with a mix of piercing instrumentation and a few mesmerising songs. Cinematographer Shaneil Deo is a veteran in making Indie films in Hollywood and he gives a mood-enhancing imagery that syncs so well with Sricharan’s BGM. The entire film will show more than 5000 visual shots cascading into the screenplay and not even one frame repeats. It is quite tempting to use flashback in a crime suspense thriller but director Ravikanth uses it tactically – only to show it when the characters speak to one another. This doesn’t create any lags in the film – a unique technique that will find more takers. Logically, though, the film has few faultlines – the part that reveals the final culprit is not fully convincing because the character doesn’t logically fit the public image of the character in the film. Also, at times, the editing is abrupt and jumpcuts too fast for audience to comprehend. Still, the film scores high on keeping you engrossed despite a serious tone sans comedy. The marketing of the film also was done differently with the main faces of the story highlighted with the hero holding a paper with a “missing” advert. Released in few theatres, the film created positive word-of-mouth publicity from the first show onwards opening the door for more theatres. The short length of the film, the purity of the genre with inter-mixed emotions and the honesty of the makers made a great product market itself. Another high for Tollywood
In summary, “Kshanam” is a gentle reminder to all those who seek success in Tollywood. Thinking differently and daring to think beyond formula always rained money at the box-office yet only few show the spine.