The film is a full-on Kartikeya Gummakonda show who sparkles as a suave, witty agent
Vikram a.k.a Raja Vikramarka (Kartikeya Gummakonda) is a new recruit in the NIA, deputed to safeguard the State Home Minister Chakravarthy (Sai Kumar) from a security threat. Keeping his identity under wraps, he claims to be an insurance agent, working under Muddukrishna (Harshavardhan), also a part-time dance guru, to gain access to the household.
He falls in love with Chakravarthy's daughter Kanthi (Tanya Ravichandran), an aspirant dancer. A former naxal group leader Guru Narayana (Pasupathy) makes a vain attempt to kill Chakravarthy at a public event, but the incident opens a can of worms that Vikram and his team need to decipher at any cost.
Raja Vikramarka could've been the rare spy-comedy to have heralded a new chapter in Telugu cinema with its intriguing premise and a captivating lead character, but what's most disappointing is that it doesn't try hard enough. The film neither has the appeal of a commercial entertainer nor the slickness of an action thriller - it tries to do a bit of both and the balance goes for a toss. All you get is a film that is too simplistic, lacking in ambition and nuance. Be it the characters, their conflicts or interpersonal relationships, everything about Raja Vikramarka feels superficial and extremely convenient.
If one were to discuss the strengths of the first-time director Sri Saripalli, it would be his knack for humour. The film is enjoyable in its lighter moments, especially with the playful camaraderie that Vikram and his superior Mahendra (played by a terrific Tanikella Bharani) share. The sequences between Vikram and Muddukrishna as insurance agents come a close second. Raja Vikramarka is hilarious when it uses Muddukrishna's character as a sacrificial goat to further Vikram's romance. Kartikeya carries himself with a lightness and a panache that adds charm to his portrayal.
The action sequences aren't unwatchable either - the main issue here is the absence of a strong antagonist and a motive. Vikram at no point feels vulnerable. The conflict between Chakravarthy and Guru Narayana that spans many decades is poorly established and you keep wondering what the fuss is all about. Pasupathy remains heavily underutilised in a negative role introduced with pomp and splendour but the filmmaker doesn't give him anything concrete to showcase his worth. Even Sai Kumar's experience feels wasted.
The romantic thread is too perfunctory, Kartikeya and Tanya Ravichandran have zilch chemistry. All that the female lead does is to fall for the charms of her man instantly and wait for him to come to her rescue in critical situations. Tanya lacks the elegance of a classical dancer and her performance to the fusion number is barely appealing. Neither her performance nor the role makes you invest in her portions. There's a gripping twist in the second hour that could've brought some zing to the proceedings though the filmmaker fails to utilise it effectively. The climax is too silly and ends with a whimper.
If at all, someone benefits from the film, it's actors Kartikeya and Sudhakar Komakula. Kartikeya exudes confidence, quite good with his comic timing, is at ease during the action sequences and proves he has ample potential to succeed as a commercial actor, provided the right script comes his way. Sudhakar Komakula gets one of the better-written roles in the film as ACP Govind and makes full use of the opportunity to unveil many sides to him as a performer. Prashanth R Vihari's music score is impressive, while the song Raja Garu Bayatikosthe stands out.
There are very few highs, lows or moments where you sense tension, intensity in Raja Vikramarka. With the potential it had in terms of the story and the immensely talented cast, the film never soars high. However, it'll be good to see director Sri Saripalli take up a full-fledged comedy in the future, given the brief sparkles we get to witness with his knack for humour.
If you need a reason to watch Raja Vikramarka this weekend, it has to be for the performance of Kartikeya Gummakonda, who takes a drastic U turn from his rustic avatars in the past and shines well as a suave, witty agent. The comedy works better than the action segments and the film is found lacking in terms of emotional depth and a strong conflict. Don't think twice to skip it or if you can't resist, wait for the OTT release.