'Nindha' movie review: Great concept undone by weak execution

Writer-director Rajesh Jagannadham has an interesting premise, but the dreary filmmaking energy keeps the Varun Sandesh starrer from being a compelling watch
Poster of the movie 'Nindha'
Poster of the movie 'Nindha'

HYDERABAD : Around the interval mark in Nindha, which is set in a small village called Kandrakota, the film’s protagonist Vivek (Varun Sandesh) goes off on a small journey, interacting with villagers about a murder that had happened a few years ago. All the people Vivek encounters have a different opinion about Balraju (Chatrapathi Sekhar), the person he is keen to learn about. Everyone knows each other and shares a common yet varying history. They all come with their own wounds and baggage, which impacts not only their decisions but also the course of life for someone else. This brief sequence captures how sometimes the objective path of law and order has to be laid on a subjective terrain, which is the core of Nindha.

Nindha, on a conceptual level, holds a lot of promise. Written and directed by Rajesh Jagannadham, the film opens on a very promising note, with six men, most of them strangers to each other, finding themselves confined together in a discreet place. All these entrapped men symbolise a section of society that’s often an accomplice in the wrongdoings committed on a collective level. As they try to make sense of the situation, the director shoots the sequence with a sense of urgency and dark humour that captures the absurdity of it all. By establishing a murder case at the centre as a means to explore the many ways in which a society destructs itself, Rajesh Jagannadham displays an ambition that’s rare in debut filmmakers. There are also many good moments in the first half, laden with impressive cinematography (by Rameez Naveeth) that helps create an atmospheric quality.

Nindha is as much a director’s film as a writer’s, but Rajesh Jagannadham fails to do justice to his own concept on an execution level. The film lacks the pacing or gradual growth of tension one requires for a plot like this. As the narrative progresses, there emerge many loopholes in the film that keep you from getting yourself immersed in the narrative. The film’s biggest undoing is the way it sets up the stakes around the central conflict. As the film’s principal characters share their perspectives about Balraju, the film refuses to take an objective view of the proceedings, instead staging the tense conversations in a way where the audience is propelled to disbelieve all arguments against Balraju, almost anticipating an anti-climactic resolution to the problem at hand. As a result, Nindha gradually loses that edge of unpredictability with each passing scene.

Nindha is also established as a narrative where every character’s point of view is equally important to each other. However, once the protagonist comes clean about his intentions, the narrative too falls prey to the ‘saviour hero’ trope, where the audience begins to wait for every theory to be proven wrong by Vivek. Barring a few moments, Varun Sandesh is rather ineffective as the righteous protagonist who is desperate to get to the bottom of a mystery. He fails to bring the intensity this character needs for Nindha to work on a broader level. Sure, we want to find out the culprit and his motivations, but the stakes don’t rise any higher because of how Vivek deals with the situation. His character remains a catalyst as bland as they come, never adding to the tension.

The second half of the film also suffers from a dull filmmaking style. For a long stretch, we have the principal characters just sitting at a table, talking each other out of theories and possibilities. The execution in these segments could have been a lot more dynamic, but Nindha ends up looking like a stageplay because of its bare-bones approach towards execution. There is a lot of humour to be found in moments like the one where the kidnapper’s accomplice gently lays out the breakfast for the hostages as per their dietary preferences and requirements. While being funny, it’s a nice foreshadowing of the gentler aspirations underneath the garb of a mass abduction. But Nindha doesn’t always display a similar penchant for tonal subversions in an otherwise intense narrative.

Overall, Nindha is engaging in bits and pieces, on a whodunnit scale. But the film fails to scratch beyond the surface of its genre template, despite its obvious potential.

Film: NINDHA

Cast: Varun Sandesh, Surya Kumar Bhagvandas, Annie Zibi, Bhadram, Chatrapathi Sekhar

Director: Rajesh Jagannadham

Rating: 2/5

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