Director Pawan Kumar reestablishes himself as a thriller specialist in this riveting show backed by strong performances
How would you react if you were to relive the same day time and again? Would you treat it as an opportunity to observe its trivialities or react to situations any differently? Would the change in outlook matter at all? aha's latest show Kudi Yedamaithe tackles many such hypothetical complexities in what's a terrific reimagination of the classic tropes within the crime thriller genre. Marrying a time loop angle to a crime-thriller story is nothing short of a filmmaking challenge for a show spanning four hours, but trust director Pawan Kumar's filmmaking finesse to make this seem like a walk in the park.
Time serves as the moral compass in Kudi Yedamaithe where the destinies of a no-nonsense cop Durga and an aspirant actor-cum-delivery boy Aadhi clash at the end of the day. The two are baffled to experience the same day again but can do little to change their fate by the stroke of the midnight hour. Durga is racing against time to unearth clues behind a series of kidnappings in the city while Aadhi is straddling his food delivery job with his ambitions to become an actor. Will there be light at the end of the tunnel? The viewers are left gasping for breath in their attempt to unlock an audacious puzzle with time. The show's strength is its ability to string together minute details to understand the larger picture.
Ram Vignesh, the writer, introduces viewers to a web of complex characters who live double lives, masking many dark secrets from the world and this includes the show's protagonists and the supposed antagonist(s). None of them isn't what they appear to be. Durga uses her fierce and aggressive exterior to guard herself against the loneliness in her life. An air hostess Parvathy uses her happy-go-lucky image to wipe away any traces of anxiety or depression from her beloved. Aadhi needs to put up a brave face at work despite facing rejection and humiliation at his acting auditions daily. The time-loop angle in the story doesn't give these characters much scope to complain and compels them to look at life in a newer light.
The crime thriller setup of Kudi Yedamaithe shares a few (intentional?) similarities with the universe of the director's earlier film U Turn. You get to see overworked cops, interrogation rooms, workplace politics within a police station and surreal elements that'll help them unlock answers to complex cases. Like the beggar on the bridge in U Turn, you have a pedestrian who keeps a watch on the activities on a road. There's a gender reversal of sorts - there's a female cop at the helm and a delivery boy at work here, unlike the male cop and a female journalist in the former. There's more intrigue to this world with the element of time coming into play and given that the show's length provides the liberty to understand characters in greater detail.
The story takes you through the flurry of emotions the characters experience as they get to live the same day in repeat mode - hope, boredom, helplessness, resilience and generosity to name a few. The show certainly gets its structure right - especially with how each of the barely 30-minute long episodes ends. The makers' decision to not treat this like a whodunit and more like 'howdunit' works well. The director teases you with interesting (sometimes strange) motifs and references, say how Aadhi is working for a company named 'repEAT', the use of the over-ripened banana at his house and the dialogues at his auditions that hint what's to arrive later.
Of course, with the non-linear narrative, the proceedings get slightly ambiguous and there's every danger that you may lose track of the sequence of events that the characters are grappling with. Even if you lose yourself in the 'loop' occasionally, Pawan Kumar's terrific sense of visual aesthetics complemented by his collaborator Advaitha's to-the-point cinematography (that doesn't glorify gore) gives you enough reason to invest in this narrative. The director reserves one of the show's murkiest characters for himself and does a fine job of it. There's a decent stretch that also authentically documents the struggles of acting aspirants and bloated egos of the directors in the industry.
Amala Paul couldn't have asked for a better role to reassert her abilities as a performer in Telugu, where apart from Pitta Kathalu, she has been largely reduced to play a damsel in distress. Rahul Vijay is a talent to watch out for, he's at his best in the acting audition sequences and his subtle modulation in his expressions, diction and body language work big time. Ravi Prakash rightfully gets his due as a bankable performer yet again, while Padmini Settam, Raj Madiraju, Rudra Pradeep, Nithya Shri make for a formidable supporting cast. The theme score by Poorna Chandra is addictive and aptly represents the infinite loop in the show.
Make time for Kudi Yedamaithe. Telugu audiences finally get a reason to smile after watching a web original. The wait is worth it.