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Custody review: Naga Chaitanya fails to break 'pretty boy' image, misses mark as an action hero

Custody had the task of redefining the onscreen image of Naga Chaitanya.


Last Updated: 09.47 PM, May 12, 2023


The story: Custody depicts the struggles of a young police officer who strives to safeguard the life of a high-profile criminal and deliver him to a CBI court.

The review: Custody opens with Constable Shiva (Naga Chaitanya) violating a security protocol to facilitate the uninterrupted passage of the chief minister's convoy. And as usual, such traffic regulations unnecessarily inconvenience common people. And Shiva breaks the ranks by stopping the convoy to make way for an ambulance. This incident makes Shiva a popular figure with Chief Minister Dakshyani (Priyamani) appreciating his bravado. 

"All the top officers who praised you in public, have been giving me an earful on the phone since morning," complains Shiva's superior officer. The opening scene sums up the whole plot of the movie: a low-ranking police officer is so honest that he won't hesitate to take on his superiors to uphold what's right and fair.

Although Shiva's insubordination is an interesting aspect of his character, director Venkat Prabhu fails to make the most of it. Shiva's relentless pursuit of justice is simply used as a plot device to push the story forward, rather than being used to explore larger themes. Venkat misses a golden opportunity to delve deeper into Shiva's character, particularly his quick temper, which could have been used to highlight the corruption in the system and one man's crusade against it.

There are a few clever elements in the narrative. For instance, Custody is set in a period when mobile phones with cameras were years away from taking over our lives. When you see the ending, you know why he set this movie against the backdrop of the bygone era. But, these glimpses of ingenuity are insufficient to satisfy today's audiences who demand maximum entertainment value for their money. 


The movie also has a set of interesting tensive plot points. Shiva unwittingly ends up in a case which is above his pay grade. And Shiva is a fan of punching above his weight, so it's a match made in heaven. Shiva takes it upon himself to save the life of Raazu (Arvind Swamy), a lighthearted criminal. Raazu falls into the trap of the CBI, which is investigating the chief minister. And to save her political career, Dakshyani enlists the service of IG Nataraj, played by Sarathkumar, a cold-blooded killer in the police uniform. But, there is a compelling angle as to why the CBI is after Dakshyani. The CBI is acting at the behest of its political bosses in Delhi. The movie suggests that there is a political agenda afoot by the national party in power to overthrow a state government run by a regional party. The contemporary and compelling angle of the CBI's best officers pursuing the truth about Dakshyani not just because it's their duty, but because of political pressure, is a missed opportunity in Venkat's film. The potential for exploring this theme further and weaving it into the narrative was not fully utilized. 

Venkat has attempted to infuse the film with his own charisma. However, he goes a step too far by breaking the fourth wall multiple times, which undercuts the tension of the film. This technique may have worked in other films, but in a movie that relies on the dramatic tension of a chase to captivate the audience, it does not work as effectively.

The movie lacks sufficient comedic relief, which fails to hold our attention for an extended duration. And, the action sequences could have been more dynamic and visually captivating to elevate the overall viewing experience.

Custody had the task of redefining the onscreen image of Naga Chaitanya. He had so far remained within the confines of a romantic hero and this film was his launch as an action hero. And yet, by the end of the movie, Chaitanya remains a pretty boy. Venkat should have allowed his hero to take more beatings resulting in bruised eyes, bloodied lips, and a fierce delivery of his punch lines. This would have given the much-needed edge to the action drama. But, Chaitanya appears too polished and almost unscathed. 

The verdict: Venkat Prabhu, who previously showcased his inventiveness with Maanaadu, disappoints with Custody. The question arises - why did he choose to make this film?


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