Director: Bandi Saroj Kumar
Cast: Rajesh, Munnar Ramesh, Rajesh Kanagasabai, Victoria, Vidya, Sharan, Raghu
'Porkkalam' was an action thriller that was offbeat and had warmed the hearts of discerning viewers with its novel scripting and stylized presentation. And now director Bandi Saroj Kumar returns with yet another off the beaten-track venture with 'Asthamanam'.
The film tracks the horrifying, nightmarish experience of a group of six adventurous friends, four boys and two girls, who go on a trekking trip to a forest. The actors most of them debutantes fit in suitably and lend a freshness to the scenes.
It’s a simple plot. But what makes it intriguing is the way the director has handled it. As the group with their guide (Munnar Ramesh aptly fitting in) venture into the forest, they soon get the feeling of being stalked. And when one of them is found brutally murdered, their fears seem to be turning true.
The director has managed to maintain the suspense element, and you wonder who the hidden enemy was. The back-ground score (Sidharth Vipin) enhance the feel and mood. But repeated shots of the group walking through the forest, with not much happening in the opening scenes, does bring in some monotony. The director who had spiced his earlier film with his stylized cinematography, experiments here too. Almost the whole film is shot in a dark ambience, like it was canned in a twilight zone. This gives an eerie feel, and helps to maintain the fear-factor. But then it does become stressful after a time. Also, some captions in the opening scenes merge with the dark background, and are hardly readable. The closing scene doesn’t spring much of a surprise, we having seen similar ones in quite a few Hollywood films.
The locations are excellent and well exploited. Appreciable is the director’s detailed capturing of it through his camera, leaving some striking imageries. Like the shot of ants moving stealthily on a branch is an imagery that lingers in the mind. The director who had used some unusual weapons in brings in some intriguing ones here too. Huge wooden hammers unleashed, make a striking horrific impact. The tribals, their fearful chief all add colour to the ambiance. If only the tribal girl didn’t look so sophisticated and filmy!
It’s appreciable that the director is totally focused on his plot, and has stayed away from distracting elements. There are no songs in the film, and the dialogue is kept to a bare minimum. At just a crisp 90 minutes of viewing time, 'Asthamanam' is an experiment worth a watch.