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Mukhachitram review: A largely gripping thriller derailed by a preachy finale

Sandeep Raaj’s deceptive plot smartly tackles a sensitive issue like marital rape until it becomes too conscious of driving home a ‘message’

Mukhachitram review: A largely gripping thriller derailed by a preachy finale
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 02.24 PM, Feb 10, 2023

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Raj and Maya are childhood sweethearts forced to part ways early in life. While Raj turns a plastic surgeon, Maya is an aspirant screen writer trying to carve her niche in the industry. Satya is a common friend of the duo, tagging along with them at every given opportunity. Much to Maya’s disappointment, Raj marries an innocent girl Mahathi. When Maya meets with a fatal accident, Raj is forced to confront another personal tragedy.



Message-driven films, when packaged smartly with an entertaining exterior, can offer an accurate picture of the society and make you leave the theatres with a high. The key to its impact is to not hammer home the message and keeping it in the subtext. For a long time, debutant Gangadhar’s Mukhachitram resists from the ‘message syndrome’ and engages you despite a few hiccups. However, in its attempt to spoonfeed its viewers, the film loses the plot.

The foundation to discuss something as sensitive as marital rape is constructed well in Mukhachitram. The setup of this world around childhood sweethearts, plastic surgeries is delightfully deceptive, hiding key traits of its pivotal characters and choosing the unveil the various layers to the story effectively. Though the screenplay is not exactly taut, it progresses smoothly to keep you invested.

Mukhachitram picks up steam after the twin tragedies in Raj’s life and a key twist changes the lens through which you look at the characters. Gangadhar channelises this transformation to offer many enjoyable mass moments, striking the right balance between entertainment and its message; watch out for the sequence where a woman decides to stand up for her counterpart.

The narrative is at its best when it takes the thriller route and the true identities of the characters are ‘unmasked’ sans any pretension. The finale unfolds more like a courtroom drama and just when you expect the drama to soar, Mukhachitram decides to become a bloated, message-heavy film with exaggerated and partly insensitive one-liners. The miscasting of actors and the inexperience of the storyteller to handle heavy-handed drama nearly derails a decent effort.

Mukhachitram aims for a Vakeel Saab-styled climax pitting an insensitive lawyer against a sensible voice. The courtroom arguments are very poorly written and it’s hard to feel for the underdog advocate and his sensationalised counters. While discussing a similar issue more sensitively, Hotstar’s Criminal Justice made a stronger impact with the courtroom sequences. Yet, this is the kind of film you’d want to see from Telugu cinema often; there’s an honest effort to make smart, engaging mainstream cinema despite a few misses.

For all the good it does, Mukhachitram still can’t escape the male gaze in the writing, more so with how Sandeep Raaj writes his female characters. It’s tiring to see only two types of women throughout the film - the independent, urban, woman and the submissive girl next-door character. It’s 2023 and still smoking and drinking are the oft-used symbols to showcase modern-day women.

Vikas Vasishta and Priya Vadlamani are undoubtedly the stars of the show. The former, after Cinema Bandi, has chosen his follow-up project well and he excels in a layered role that offers many surprises. Priya Vadlamani bags a dream role, easily her career-best, and plays it with restraint, while she gets to be innocent, heroic, badass at once. Chaitanya Rao’s nod to play a brief yet a crucial part in the film proves he’s a secure actor. Ayesha Khan makes a mark in a key role too.

The film particularly falters with the casting of Ravishankar and Vishwak Sen; the tone of the narrative changes post their arrival and the ineffective writing doesn’t make full use of their presence either. The storytellers could’ve opted for a lesser-known actor than Vishwak and used that time to build his backstory instead. Kaala Bhairava’s background score helps the film during its cinematic highs.


Mukhachitram is a largely engaging drama with smart twists, extracting commendable performances from its leads Vikas Vasishta, Priya Vadlamani, Ayesha Khan and Chaitanya Rao. The special appearances of Ravishankar and Vishwak Sen don’t help the film’s cause. There are flashes of brilliance in Sandeep Raaj’s writing while the director Gangadhar could’ve handled the courtroom sequences more effectively. A passable watch on OTT!