Sai Kiran’s directorial debut fails to offer a convincing payoff despite a riveting first hour
Last Updated: 08.47 AM, Nov 18, 2022
Gopi is a timid, introverted software employee who works at a software firm. He shares a special rapport with his neighbour Neelam and his daughter Nazia. While Gopi falls for his colleague Mini, his love life doesn’t take off as expected. He faces the biggest test of his life when he realises that Nazia is possessed. How far will he go to save her and conquer his inner (and outer) demons?
Not many Telugu filmmakers have given a shot at an unblemished genre piece in the horror space. When a film like Masooda, helmed by debutant Sai Kiran, promises to be an addition to that coveted list, it’s natural for it to pique the curiosity of true horror junkie. However, by the end of the film, you only feel cheated. Post a riveting first hour, when you expect it to fire all cylinders, Masooda runs out of gas and turns out to be a redundant fare.
The story of Masooda revolves around a timid youngster Gopi, someone who’s scared of driving away dead rats and cats from his apartment, gathering the courage to stand up to an evil spirit. He takes this bait, not for a friend or a loved one, but, for a neighbour, out of human concern. To buy a scenario of a human standing up for the other without any expectation, the filmmaker must establish the protagonist’s humanitarian angle firmly. In Masooda, this emotion isn’t as pronounced.
The film starts with a chilling account of a woman wreaking havoc on a family in the late 90s and later shifts to the present-day story of Gopi and his neighbours Neelam, a school teacher and her daughter Nazia. Though the story doesn’t progress much, the film, in the first hour, keeps ticking along smoothly, shedding light on the various dimensions and conflicts in their lives. The director peppers the narrative with a few mysteries and uses them to keep the viewer intrigued.
It’s a relief to see a vulnerable, relatable male protagonist like Gopi, who doesn’t punch above his weight or view himself as an embodiment of masculinity. His love life, however, distracts us from the premise. The narrative gains steam when Nazia is possessed and Gopi leaves no stone unturned to rescue her. You may call it the male saviour complex, though the film treats it as a human concern.
Realistic treatment is what Sai Kiran aims at, but in the quest for that, he struggles to build the emotional foundation that the film so desperately needed. The emotional thread in the film is too airy and fragile. The screenplay, especially post-intermission, lacks precision and the buildup leading to the final payoff (which isn’t convincing either) is overly bombastic. There are multiple backstories to Masooda, the spirit that haunts Nazia, though none of them creates the intended impact. Time and again, the film relies on gore to send shivers down your spine (it only tires you up).
The thrills are unimaginative and bland and the director struggles with the horror tropes (not what you’d want to notice in a film marketed as a horror drama). The film’s exhausting 160-minute length is one of its major drawbacks – the narration lacks focus and takes too long to arrive at a resolution. At the end of it, one wonders what was the fuss all about. The camouflaging is catchy yes, but where’s the broth?
Sangitha and Thiruveer’s earthy performances make Masooda more tolerable. Kavya Kalyanram’s transition from a child actor to a female lead is smooth and her screen presence warrants your attention. Bandhavi Sridhar shines in an assured debut performance while Akhila Ram, Satyam Rajesh, Subhalekha Sudhakar, Surabhi Prabhavathi, Satya Prakash and others do the needful.
The unsung hero of Masooda is its technical brilliance - the chilling sound design, the imaginative cinematography (by Nagesh Banell) and the background score (Prashanth R Vihari) add up to film’s atmospherics. Sai Kiran is a promising storyteller but he needed a strong third act to smoothen the film’s rough edges and finish on a high.
Masooda is a horror drama that begins well but ends with a whimper. The film focuses more on the micro-detailing and misses out on the larger picture. The performances from its leads Sangitha and Thiruveer, the cinematography and the music are its assets. Sai Kiran has all the makings of a good director, provided he focuses on the writing as much as the technical appeal of his end product.