Director duo Harish Narayan and Hari Shankar, with a riveting screenplay, offer a chilling take on motherhood and beauty in the garb of a thriller
Last Updated: 08.47 AM, Nov 11, 2022
Yashoda is a rural woman who takes to surrogacy to pay for her sister Brinda’s medical treatment. She is soon shifted to a medical facility Eva, where she’s accompanied by many young surrogate mothers. She finds herself attracted to a doctor Gautham but is suspicious about the eerie activities in the facility. Her worries surmount with the sudden disappearance of her in-mates. How far will Yashoda go to find answers? What is she upto?
Conspiracy thrillers work when storytellers offer a solid emotional base and personalise the tale while digging up ugly truths about an industry. While Karthi’s Sardar used a father-son drama as an effective topping to provide insights into the bottled water market, Samantha’s Yashoda uses surrogacy as a device to take a peek into the cosmetics industry. The result is all the more enriching and dramatic when told through the eyes of a woman, offering a solid commentary on motherhood, femininity and unrealistic beauty standards.
Yashoda starts on a jerky note. You realise it’s a make-believe world and there’s more to it than meets the eye. The protagonist takes to surrogacy for her monetary needs and the narrative gains steam as she’s shifted to a medical facility for her delivery. While the visual aesthetic and the production design of the facility draw your curiosity, the backstories behind the surrogate mothers aren’t as arresting. Yet you can’t deny the genuine effort of the directors to explore their diverse backgrounds.
There’s a woman who embraces surrogacy to buy an iPhone, there’s the daughter of a prostitute who wants to set her mother free, and there’s a folk artist who imagines her yet-to-be-born child as Lord Krishna. The entire facility is visualised like a maze, an air-conditioned jail and the directors give a terrific mythological twist connecting it to the birth of Krishna. Krishna is a metaphor through which many layers beneath the scam are unveiled.
The directors introduce you to the story while juxtaposing a surrogacy tale with a murder investigation. The little details behind the characterisation and the mysterious universe help Yashoda rise above an average thriller. Beyond the shaky initial half an hour, it’s hard to take your eyes away from the screen. While thrills are satisfying, it’s the core emotion and the attention to detail on the technical front that stands out.
The eerie background score, the claustrophobic cinematography, the compelling production design and the outstanding action choreography are the lifelines of Yashoda. There’s great variety in the action sequences and on most occasions, Samantha looks vulnerable, edgy and it contributes to the tension in the storytelling. The message that pregnant women are equally capable and strong as the mortals in the universe is delivered with a thud.
The film’s breakneck screenplay in the post-intermission segments leaves you gasping for breath. While truths around the cosmetic industry are chilling beyond doubt, the creators exhibit a great knack for making the story feel relevant to the average viewer. In times when we chase beauty and perfection in an Instagram-crazy world, the tale hits you on a deeper level. The antagonists are no caricatures but they have a demonic quality and it’s greed that drives them to insanity.
The twists in the film are centred on the true identities of its pivotal characters and they work for the most part, even though some of them appear obvious. All through their careers, directors Hari and Harish have branded themselves as ‘thriller specialists’ and Yashoda yet again proves their grasp over the genre. This is a bigger victory because they don’t compromise on their creative vision despite the glossy exteriors, a starry cast and the scale.
Films like Yashoda are important because it reminds viewers of the significance of the plot over the star and the collective efforts needed to ensure a satisfying result. Samantha’s presence may give Yashoda its deserved reach but it’s the collaborative effort across various departments that stands out on the whole. Yashoda is Samantha’s best performance in recent years - there’s vulnerability, there’s courage, there’s sisterhood and my Lord, she can kick some butt with rage.
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar symbolises the ambitious, uncompromising modern-day woman who understands the significance of beauty in the world and there couldn’t have been a better casting choice than her. Her scenes with Rao Ramesh in the second hour are a delight to watch and the authority in her screen presence does the job for the role. Unni Mukundan finally gets a meaty part in Telugu cinema and saying anything more than that would spoil the surprise.
A bulk of the supporting cast gets well-written, impactful roles, right from Rao Ramesh to Sampath Raj to Sri Divya, Madhurima Narla, Murali Sharma, Shatru and Kalpika Ganesh. The personality that Rao Ramesh lends to his character as a crooked politician speaks volumes of his potential as a performer. Yashoda is empowering without using the ‘women empowerment’ phrase and indirectly suggests that the tale is nothing but a ‘leela’ of Lord Krishna.
Go for Yashoda! Directors Hari and Harish may have an advantage of cashing in on the popularity for thrillers, but above everything else, they’re terrific storytellers. If Samantha gives a facelift to the well-written script aided by a strong supporting cast, it’s the technical crew who provide a great finishing touch and lend finesse to the product.