The web film directed by Bhargav Macharla also stars Praneetha Patnaik and Vishwadev Rachakonda
Laxman (Rahul Ramakrishna) is a small-time mobile store owner in Nalgonda, who's a porn addict. Though he has a caring wife in the form of Suchitra (Praneeta Patnaik), he treats her as a mere object to satisfy his sexual desire and hardly pays heed to her needs or words. He's disinterested in the daily affairs of the mobile store and is a big-time pervert, ogling at women and sexualises almost anything and everything. His wife suspects something fishy though she can't point her finger at the exact issue. Laxman soon comes across a portal that offers video access to the living rooms of couples across the world. His obsession with real-time porn drives him crazy, destroying his finances, mental stability and marriage.
Bhargav Macharla, who had helmed the under-appreciated crime show Kailasapuram a few years ago, is back with another hard-hitting web original that documents the dreariness of modern-day existence in a slick narrative. His film showcases a world where data and metrics mean everything; several aspects of our lives are tracked, sold to companies without our knowledge and can potentially destroy our sanity on any given day. The director here limits his story to the lives of two couples from different backdrops who're victims of the digital age.
NET, as the title suggests, is a cyber-thriller but the director doesn't make this a story about technology alone. He uses the crisp runtime efficiently to delve into the character's identitiesand allows us to invest in their world emotionally. In a casual get-together with friends, Suchitra realises that her husband's perversion dates back to his college days though she remains silent about it. Suchitra does her best to understand her husband beyond his sexual needs. In the other case of a supposedly regular couple that resides in Hyderabad, Priya (Avika Gor) is aware of her husband Ranjith's (Vishwadev Rachakonda) past though he hides from her a secret that could end their relationship at once.
The film is superb in presenting the downside to porn addiction on a psychological level. Rahul Ramakrishna as Laxman is splendid in showcasing the mental state of the addict and how he drowns himself into a hellhole day after day. The film focuses on the after-effects of addiction in graphic detail - the perennial frustration, the lack of focus at work, the inability to gauge between right and wrong in any given situation, all for instantaneous gratification. Laxman is equally embarrassed and clueless about where the addiction is leading him to - he can't save his marriage back home but goes all out to rescue a girl from a husband who's cheating on her.
NET also offers a ringside view of small-town relationships and lifestyles, their naivety, simplicity, how they're quite content in their cocoons. Notice how sincere is Laxman's brother-in-law in sorting out the issues with his marriage, talking to him more like a friend and bailing him out of trouble on multiple occasions. While life is not exactly rosy in the urban space, you're hinted at how the dirtiest of secrets are hidden under the carpet in households too. The film proves how no one can get away in this era pretending to be a saint and that technology may present some truths that are a little too hard to digest.
The web film has a captivating, clutter-free screenplay all along and there's absolutely no scope for any distraction in the storytelling. The director hints at a few details about all the characters but never spoonfeeds the viewer beyond necessity, letting the visuals speak for themselves. Within limited backdrops and locations, NET has you gasping for breath and makes terrific use of diverse colour tones to uplift the intensity of sequences. Abhiraj Nair's cinematography and Nagarjuna Thallapalli's sound design adds depth to the film's core. The climax is quite apt, not showcasing anything too drastic or providing convenient solutions. The Goreti Venkanna number in the title credits lends a perfect finishing touch.
Rahul Ramakrishna proves yet again why is one of the most versatile yet underused actors in Telugu cinema. He and the C/O Kancharapalem find Praneeta Patnaik are as good as a real couple on the screen, right from their heated arguments to little pleasures and responses to their mood swings. Vishwadev Rachakonda, in a role where he behaves unpredictably, is extremely effective while he lasts. The film deserves to be watched for Avika Gor's exploits as a performer too. She's no longer the bubbly girl of Balika Vadhu and Uyyala Jampala; she tests waters in an unchartered territory and comes out with all guns blazing. The supporting actors, especially the actor who plays Rahul's on-screen brother-in-law, do a commendable job. NET is a crisp, fantastic little gem that you need to make time for.
NET is an absorbing cyber-thriller driven by strong characters and assured performances. The film, besides shedding new light on the dangers of living in the digital age, draws an interesting parallel between relationships in small towns and cities. Shows like these are exactly the reason why OTTs are here to stay.