‘Aarambham’ movie review: This Telugu science fiction drama partly holds interest

The science fiction flair of ‘Aarambham’ combines with a daring prison escape narrative.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Telugu film ‘Aarambham’ (which translates to ‘beginning’) only fully divulges its connection to the source material, the Kannada novel ‘Neenu Ninnolage Khaidi’ (‘I am a prisoner like you’ by Anush A Shetty) towards the end. Here, after a number of revelations, the storyline satisfyingly ties together numerous mysteries, including an elusive prison break. However, the voyage to this denouement leaves something to be desired. First-time director Ajay Nag and his creative team bring innovative touches to a science fiction tale staged against a quaint rural backdrop, resisting well-worn commercial film conventions. Yet, not all the narrative experiments translate into a compelling story, and the film may require a willing patience from its viewers.

‘Aarambham’ starts off with the enigma of an escapee. Inmate number 299, Miguel (portrayed by Mohan Bhagath), has vanished without a trace from his prison cell. To unravel this mystery, sleuths Chaitanya (played by Ravindra Vijay) and Madhav (by Abhishek Boddepalli) join forces. Their tools of the trade are slim; only Miguel’s diary and the recollections of fellow prisoner Ganesh (Laxman Meesala) are at hand. As they probe deeper, the urgency of a typical prison escape is overshadowed by enigmatic science fiction elements that they must decode to uncover the truth.

Aarambham (Telugu)

Director: Ajay Nag

Cast: Mohan Bhagath, Supritha Satyanarayan, Surabhi Prabhavathi

Storyline: An inmate’s baffling escape is potentially linked to a larger scientific endeavor.

The lush and serene countryside where our characters lay their scenes is captured splendidly by cinematographer Devdeep Gandhi Kundu. Adding to the atmosphere, Sinjith Yerramilli’s musical score and sound designer CS Manicka Prabhu’s auditory enhancements enrich the unfolding drama.

In one heartwarming vignette from Miguel’s youth, we see the blossoming of his friendship with the quirky scientist, Subramanya Rao, over a TV antenna and a radio set. As Miguel’s relationship with mother-figure Leelamma (Surabhi Prabhavathi) emerges, and as characters voice their introspections on solitude, the film finds purchase. These personal connections and the exploration of loneliness anchor our attention when the science fiction elements might falter. The film occasionally diverges into local conflicts which can seem out of place within the core narrative.

Themes such as déjà vu, the concept of infinity, and cyclical time are woven into the plot to demystify the central scientific venture, which is revealed across eight chapters and culminates in a series of unexpected twists.

The motivation behind the core scientific experiment sometimes falters, and a past trauma of Rao is examined but feels insufficient. The film lacks details on Rao’s engagement with the wider scientific community or his aspirations upon the success of his experiment.

While the cinematography and musical composition enhance the experience, Mohan Bhagath’s impressive performance keeps the audience’s attention. The film also probes the nature of destiny, and rather poignantly, it considers the potential of human empathy to foster cherished recollections.

‘Aarambham’ represents a bold first offering from film school graduates unafraid to tread off the beaten path. Though ambitious, the film could have benefited from an added dose of dynamism to truly captivate its audience.

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