Review: DAMARUKAM Takes Hindu Mythology Into The 21st Century
Trying to explain the plot is a bit messy, since I don't speak the language, but I was able to get along. Nagarjuna plays Mallikarjuna, a man born under the watchful eye of Lord Shiva who is blessed with good fortune and charisma to spare. One day, while visiting his quadriplegic sister in the hospital he catches the eye of her doctor, Maheshwari (Anushka) and the two fall in love. However, the demon Rhakshasa (Ravi Shankar) also has his eye on Maheshwari and begins playing a game with Malli to pry the two lovebirds apart. From there, the film takes on a life of its own as Malli and his new pal Sambayya (Actually Lord Shiva in disguise, played by Prakash Raj in a ridiculous wig) takes on Rhakshasa and his human avatar, Maheshwari's betrothed Rahul (Ganesh Venkatraman). Things get ugly real quick, and the film goes to every length to make jaws drop.
I know that the star of this film is supposed to be Nagarjuna, but he feels like a pawn in a larger game. The real selling point of Damarukam is the stellar CG applied to the intersection between the world of the gods and modern day Hyderabad. Some things are subtle, however, that's not really the intention. Director Srinivas Reddy wanted to go big, and he certainly achieved that. Both Rhakshasa and Shiva have pretty impressive tricks up their sleeve, from Rhakshasa's head full of snakes to Shiva's animation of a devotional idol of his bull Nandi. The film really goes for broke in terms of crazy visuals, and for the most part they work beautifully. Reddy makes us wait for the second half of the film to really turn on the juice, but the climax is well worth the ride, if you ask me.
The first half of the film is mostly wordy exposition, which unfortunately leaves me pretty much in the dark. I was able to understand a little bit of the visual explanations, but there is so much goddamned talking in this movie it's insane. What I did catch was a couple of awesome fight scenes, and a whole lot of broad comedy from Telugu mainstay Brahmanandam (I actually think it's a legal requirement for him to appear in every Telugu film) and Raghu Babu, another famous face in Tollywood. The first 90 minutes are used to set up the main conflict between Malli and Rhakshasa, which is admittedly a lot, but one must adjust one's expectations when walking into a Telugu film. In any case, it wasn't as interminably long as it could have been and the action moves along at a brisk pace.
It's the post intermission segment of the film that really gets the juices flowing, with plenty of bloody action and crazy stunts and effects to keep anyone happy. Once Rhakshasa makes his presence known to Malli, all bets are off, and the violence level goes off the charts. There are plenty of stabbings, slashings, near-beheadings, a seriously intense tribe of ascetic sadhus, crazy-elaborate weaponry, and more than enough buckets of blood to go around. What was missing from the first half, which was mostly action, is present in spades in the second half. While I was still only about two-thirds certain that I understood what was going on, I was able to enjoy the hour-long climax with no problem.
Damarukam is not a film that will appeal to everyone. People with a fear of subtitle-less films need not apply, also this may not be one for Telugu film rookies because the socio-fantasy genre in general is so damned unique to this one industry that there will likely be a lot of confusion. However, if you've got it in you, if you've seen and loved Magadheera, Yamadonga, or any of the other myriad socio-fantasy films of the last few years, this will probably be right up your alley. It sure doesn't hurt that my south Indian sweetheart, Charmee Kaur, gets in on the action early with an item number that got my blood flowing.
Though far from perfect, and likely to confuse newcomers, Damarukam seems to fit the bill and handily accomplish its goals. It's entertaining, it features lots of action, and is very rarely boring, which is more than I can say for most films.
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