The Sudheer Varma directorial delivers on its promises and makes a solid impact within the limitations of the premise
Last Updated: 02.56 PM, Sep 16, 2022
Shalini and Damini are women from contrasting backgrounds who meet at the police training academy. There’s friction between the two from day one and their plight is worsened when they realise they’re roommates. Both can’t stand each other’s presence and find a way to downgrade the other. However, a crisis forges an unlikely bond among them. One night, as they step out for an outing during a weekend, they notice a young girl being abducted by a group of men. To what extent will they go to rescue her?
Saakini Daakini, the remake of the Korean blockbuster Midnight Runners, is a rare action comedy in Telugu cinema headlined by two prominent actresses - Nivetha Thomas and Regina Cassandra. This isn’t your typical, heavy-handed saga in the garb of female-centric cinema. The film protagonists have good fun, make you laugh, beat the s*it out of the baddies and even stand up for their female counterparts in the hour of crisis, without making too much fuss.
The premise is compact and the narrative is focused enough to result in a fun outing. This remake, adapted by Akshay Poolla and helmed by Sudheer Varma, knows the limitations of the story and doesn’t punch above its weight. The challenge for the creators, however, doubles up in this adaptation - the male protagonists from the original make way for women in the Telugu version. The decision adds another layer to the meaty plot, furthering the idea of sisterhood.
The friction and the awkward camaraderie between Shalini and Damini are enjoyable in the first hour. Their worlds are very different and a clash is inevitable, but don’t mean to harm the other on purpose. The comedy is fun to watch and still doesn’t affect the plot’s progress. The screenwriting is sharp and the creators trust the original material well, retaining its core strengths and localising the premise just enough to ensure familiarity.
The film crisply establishes the leads as independent women. While Shalini loses her father early in life and is raised by her mother and grandma, Damini wants her own identity beyond her cop-parents in the training academy. The two lack motivation during their stint in the academy but a crisis reinstates their purpose in life. While they get to flex their muscles, it’s their strategy in a deadlock situation that impresses the most while they accomplish their aim.
Sudheer Varma is an excellent choice for the remake, given he understands the lightness with which he has to treat the material (unlike most cop films), without diluting the action segments. The women in the film are vulnerable, and relatable and don’t take themselves too seriously. When two such underdogs take on a group of baddies and unravel a nasty medical scam in the middle of the night, you end up rooting for them.
The film doesn’t stuff the idea of ‘women empowerment’ down your throats and underplays its messages in the subtext. When a cab driver tells the protagonists that an area may not be safe for women, Damini says, ‘No place is safe for women and that can’t be the excuse to restrict ourselves to four walls.’ Even in the lighthearted first hour amidst the academy, the women aren’t treated any differently from the men and it shows that the makers have taken the intent behind the adaptation seriously.
The use of the Mahishasuramardhini-themed song in the climax as Shalini and Damini go about their business is one of the more enjoyable popcorn-worthy moments in the film. The screenplay is largely precise but loses its momentum briefly when they over-emphasise that Shalini is a foodie. On the whole, it’s good to see the women in the middle of all the action and the men - like Bhanuchander, Sudarshan, Satya, Prudhvi Raj - being secure while lending them a helping hand.
The action comedy sails smoothly also because of its competent technical crew - be it the cinematography of Richard Prasad or the music by Naresh Kumaran, Mikey Mc Cleary or Viplav Nyshadam’s coherent work on the editing table. Nivetha Thomas and Regina Cassandra make for a kickass action duo. The strengths of the actresses are different and yet they complement each other perfectly, aided by a good, precise story.
Saakini Daakini is an action comedy that’s slick, fun and thrilling at once. Sudheer Varma’s experience of lending a light-hearted touch to his crime/action stories comes in handy with this engrossing adaptation. Regina Cassandra and Nivetha Thomas make the most of a unique script that rides on their shoulders. Make time for this one.