A 127-minute long film, 50 per cent of which is a hostage drama, ideally should not feel arduous to sit through. Unfortunately, Chaitanya Dantuluri’s Basanti seems like a long-drawn ordeal. It’s tough to believe this film came from the director of the much-appreciated Baanam. In the midst of heightened drama, a terrorist called Gaazi tells the commissioner of police that he has upped his demand — he not only wants a dreaded terrorist to be released from prison but also wants biryani to feed fellow terrorists and student hostages. If this was meant to lighten the tension momentarily without taking the focus away from the crisis, it doesn’t come through. And after a howler like this, one doesn’t take the film seriously as it wobbles between being a love story and a story of student courage.

Arjun (Goutham) doesn’t take his academics seriously and his life revolves around his close friends. He spots the beautiful Roshni (Alisha Baig) at a wedding and for a while, we witness a regular, feel-good, boy-pursues-girl story. Oblivious to this bunch of college students, a few members of a terror outfit plan an attack on Hyderabad. We get a hint of this ominous thread of the story in the opening sequence where a bomb blast tears through the peace and quiet at a community park. A father is shattered to find his little daughter among those killed and eons later, watches the hostage reports on news channels. One would have expected the director to make this common man a part of the plot but he remains a spectator.

A film that aims to be a stirring account of a student battling all odds to save his friends from terrorists requires a cohesive and compelling screenplay and the lack of this is the film’s biggest drawback. Had the screenplay been good, one would have overlooked the presence of songs slowing down the film (Mani Sharma is in good form both with background score and songs, but the songs picturised in slow motion get repetitive) and the amateurish execution of a few scenes.

Brahmanandam’s son Goutham has potential and comes up with a pretty good performance. Tanikella Bharani is a treat to watch as a father who is more of a friend to his son. One just wishes the film hadn’t gone haywire post intermission. For an audience that has seen more gripping hostage dramas, something that’s not well thought out may not make the cut. Here’s hoping Chaitanya Dantuluri bounces back with a film like or even better than Baanam.

BASANTI

Cast: Goutham, Alisha Baig, Shayaji Shinde and Tanikella Bharani

Direction: Chaitanya Dantuluri

Music: Mani Sharma

Bottomline: Letdown by a hotchpotch script.