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Dayaa review: JD Chakravarthy is at his absolute best in this banger of a crime drama

Layered characters, fabulous performances, intense emotions, technical finesse - director Pavan Sadineni’s show has it all

Dayaa review: JD Chakravarthy is at his absolute best in this banger of a crime drama

Last Updated: 10.36 PM, Aug 03, 2023



Dayaa, a freezer van driver at the Kakinada port, is content leading an ordinary life with his partner Alivelu and his long-time friends Chanti, Prabha. All hell breaks loose when a corpse mysteriously lands in his van in the middle of a delivery. Meanwhile, in Hyderabad, Kaushik registers a case about his missing wife, journalist Kavitha. A politician Parasurama Raju is after a piece of evidence that could wreak havoc on his career. How are their destinies intertwined?


Dayaa tells the story of a freezer van driver and his profession also represents the trajectory of the show - it is always on the move, figuratively and literally. While the protagonist wants to escape to safety, an upright journalist chases the truth, a husband is on the hunt for his wife, a cop wants to make progress in his investigation, a woman is in search of her identity and the culprit is after power.


This is a jungle, as the introductory voice-over suggests; everyone has a motive and they need to pay a price to reach their destination. The show is about a complex protagonist who needs to fight his inner demons and conflicted past to surge ahead. Amidst the vibrant port backdrop, the show, in bits and pieces, suggests there’s more to Dayaa beyond his black-and-white existence.

Director Pavan Sadineni gives the viewer enough space to soak in the ambience, and read beyond the protagonist’s silences and deep gazes. For the restless viewer, there are ample events that help the plot progress and also generate enough tension. The clincher is however the absorbing drama, letting you look beyond the obvious, and explore a different facet of each of the characters, and their ambitions.

The show goes back and forth between Dayaa’s past and the present and also the characters who’re to transform his life. Dayaa is also a character study, placing a bunch of messed-up characters amidst challenging scenarios and discovering them gradually through their reactions/responses. The motives are clear, the conflicts are solid but the character detailing is intentionally hazy - you’re only offered glimpses and are left with many questions.

The beauty is that Dayaa is still delightfully mainstream - there are abundant mass moments that are crafted with finesse. The violence in the show is stylised but doesn’t glorify gore, the slow-motion shots genuinely add value to the sequences. Dayaa has layered characters, delicious plot points, irresistible cliffhangers, twists and a whole load of whistle-worthy ideas, yet it doesn’t want to limit itself to the plot and strives to offer an immersive viewing experience. The portrayal of one of the antagonists as a mute character is a masterclass in minimalism.

The choice of terrains, beyond their aesthetics, is a deeper reflection of a character’s situation. The rootedness is established well, seamlessly transitioning between sets and exterior locations. The visual authenticity is one reason why you’re thoroughly invested in the proceedings. Vivek Kalepu’s lighting, metaphorical framing attain a deeper meaning with (Viplav Nyshadam) innovative editing and haunting, atmospheric soundscape (thanks to Shravan Bharadwaj, Nagarjuna Thallapalli).

The depth of the show is evident in its final episodes - there’s birth, there’s death, there’s despair and there’s hope, all summarised succinctly through a rustic number in the climax. Rakendu Mouli, the writer, makes the most of the moist, delicate situations - his best is of course the final monologue where he views life through the lens of nature. And there’s a bonus - an unexpected (or intentional?) throwback to Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya before Dayaa signs off.

JD Chakravarthy surrenders to the vision of a capable director in what’s easily his career-best performance. Despite the complexity and the mysteries surrounding his role, he makes acting look effortless. His measured body language, empty stares, and matter-of-fact dialogue delivery contribute to the realism of his performance. This is just the material he has richly deserved for a long time and utilises his maturity and versatility as a performer to the hilt.

Though a seasoned actor may be the face of the show, each of its actors is offered a good opportunity to establish the identity of their well-written characters. Ramya Nambessan is perfectly cast as a woman of unquestionable integrity, who hides her pain in her silence and moist eyes. Eesha Rebba’s presence is used minimally and yet smartly in key sequences and the actress plays a self-aware Alivelu to perfection. Vishnupriya is a surprise package and highlights the struggles of her character with assurance.

Babloo Prithiveeraj as the crooked, perverted politician, delivers a fine performance. Kamal Kamaraju, in a part that has to conceal more than express his feelings, finally gets to showcase his range as an actor. It’s also a relief to see that Kalpika Ganesh, playing the third wheel in Kaushik and Kavitha’s relationship, isn’t reduced to a caricature. Josh Ravi is a revelation as Prabha and so is Moin as the wily henchman. Bhanu, Mayank Parakh, Keshav Deepak, and Gayathri Gupta too make an impression while they last.


If Senapathi reflected Pavan Sadineni’s deep understanding of drama and human complexities, the universe of Dayaa pushes his limits as a storyteller further. His command over his craft gets better and he strikes a perfect balance between style and substance. Dayaa is one of the best OTT shows that the Telugu digital space has produced. It proves that massiness can be achieved with a touch of class too.


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