What starts off as an investigation to find out whether it’s a murder or suicide, soon unravels as the suspects spill the truth, leaving Hegde to piece together a rather flawless story. And therein lies Lalbagh’s flaw
Story: The morning after the birthday bash of his daughter, Tom is found dead by wife Sarah. Police officer Ganesh Hegde talks to the seven people who had attended the birthday along with questioning Sarah to find out if it is a murder, suicide or natural death. However, the truths that come out are shocking.
Review: In the recent past, the Kannada film Arishadvarga was probably the thriller that spent a lion’s share of the movie with the lead police investigator at its centre gluing together the narratives of the suspects. Lalbagh, which is also set in the metropolitan city of Bengaluru, borrows the same format with the film starting off with police officer Ganesh Hegde (Rahul Dev Shetty) questioning people, who were at a birthday bash that followed in the death of Tom (Sijoy Varghese).
His prime suspects include Tom’s friends, co-workers and his own wife Sarah, whose diary is used as a story-telling trope in the film to reveal details about the couple’s turbulent relationship. What starts off as an investigation to find out whether it’s a murder or suicide, soon unravels as the suspects spill the truth, leaving Hegde to piece together a rather flawless story. And therein lies Lalbagh’s flaw. Unlike Arishadvarga, where the filmmaker introspects each character’s flaws and virtues providing deep insights to why they did what they did, Lalbagh’s characters lack any sort of depth.
The only character who does manage to get some layers is Mamta Mohandas’ Sarah, but her story is rather too detached from the main investigation that it hardly presents a shock-and-awe moment for the audience when the final pieces fall in place. The performances in the movie too leave much to be desired with just Rahul Madhav and Rahul Dev Shetty probably standing out among the rest. The movie also has cameos from VK Prakash and Neha Saxena, as characters who help out the probe.
The highlight of the film, directed by Prashanth Murali Padmanabhan, are its visuals by Antony Jo. The movie is stylishly shot and Antony brings out the urban milieu in all its glory. Even the interior frames are well composed. Rahul Raj’s music too complements the mood of the slick thriller, that doesn’t have any depth or twists to keep the audience engaged. With the movie being set in Bengaluru, the makers might be justified in using Kannada dialogues extensively; however, Malayalam subtitles could have helped especially when the conversations about the investigation. Instead, the audience is left to figure out what the chats are about from the English words or what little Kannada they are familiar with.
Verdict: Though Lalbagh has an interesting concept, the opportunity is squandered with a shallow narrative and generic twists that fail to engage the audience. The visuals though are captivating, but those aren’t enough to make the viewers want to watch a thriller in theatres.