Jeevitha Rajasekhar’s latest directorial Shekar is a compelling investigative thriller that throws light on the life of a retired police constable, who is going through emotional turmoil. An official remake of the Malayalam crime thriller Joseph (2018), Jeevitha stays mostly faithful to the blueprint of the original film aside from making it tight and crisp in the second hour.
Shekar (Dr Rajasekhar) is a man of restrained emotions and is popular in his department for his adept investigative skills. Shekar and three of his friends lead an undisciplined retired life and the group does not miss an opportunity to use their expertise when there’s a suspicious case in the town. He is still the go-to guy for his superiors and he doesn’t hesitate to help them crack unsolved murder cases. After tracing the culprit behind a twin murder case, Shekar returns to his home only to be haunted by the memories of his ex-wife Indu (Athmiya Rajan) and daughter Geetha (Shivani Rajasekhar). He couldn’t give up on the happiest memories and the cheerful life he spent with his loved ones and we get to see the many layers and sublayers of his life as the back story begins to unfold.
Deftly switching between the twin tragedies and the mastery in personal crime scene investigation, Shekar slowly draws you into the suspense at the heart of its plot. The story doesn’t veer off into comedy tracks and romances either — at least not too much. Most of the twists are smartly revealed, and Shekar builds on the little unexpected things. With mobile tower tracking, Benzidine test (for detection of bloodstains), call dumping, data matching, creating a plan, and providing a picture of events serving as key plot points, you get the sense of being consistently invested in the outcome of the investigation.
The screenplay unravels skillfully but also quite sluggishly, especially in the first half which ends in a fantastic twist. The second hour picks up the pace with interesting plot twists and detailing what is the mission and who Shekar’s target is. Jeevitha deserves applause for constructing Shekhar’s world to perfection — be it his present life with his friends, his love story in the past, and his strained relationship with his wife. She has also handled the relationship between Shekar and Mallikharjun (Kishore), his ex-wife’s husband, in a mature way. But I fail to understand why Mallikharjun from the very first scene has immense respect for Shekar and perhaps, some detailing into their acquaintance would have made things tad more interesting. The songs, too, sync well with the narrative and perfectly complement the flashback sequences. Araku Valley makes for an evocative setting, and Jeevitha Rajasekhar relies heavily on scenic beauty.
Then there are those plot holes like the ease with which Shekar goes in and out of people’s homes at will. The director failed to bring the nail-biting suspense that will keep the viewers enthralled from start to finish. As with many films in the genre, we’re required to take a giant leap of faith when faced with the facts of the crimes. The climax coated with an underlying message seems stretched and underwhelming.
What helps Shekar is its brilliant cast of actors, each never trying to dominate the other, but performing sincerly to their characters. Rajasekhar brings to the table what only he can as the anguished father, emotional husband and abandoned lover, who hid his feelings under his tired eyes. He is fantastic in the character, conveying angst, guilt and enthusiasm in everything from his body language to his dialogues. Sameer, Bharani and Abhinav Gomatam are reliably solid as Shekar’s friends. Athmiya Rajan makes an impression, while Muskaan Khubchandani, who appears in the flashback, portrays heart-rendering emotions with ease. In fact, it is these characters that provide the emotional wallop to the story. Shivani Rajasekhar, although billed as a special appearance, delivers a subtle act. Kishore is alright.
Anup Rubens’s background score is the soul of the film, while Mallikarjuna Naragani’s cinematography is eye-catching as in the original.Overall, Shekar is an engrossing thriller that benefits from efficient direction and an inherently riveting plot (originally written by Shahi Kabir). The film seldom loses its grip or your attention and stays engaging when it focuses on its core plot.
Cast: Dr Rajasekhar, Shivani Rajasekhar, Athmiya Rajan, Muskaan Khubchandani
Director: Jeevitha Rajasekhar