The idea of building a story around the concept of an asura is laudable. But do we really have to see the asura lusting after a woman taking a dip in a temple pond?

The social fantasy genre can be a double-edged sword. For every Ammoru or Arundhati that worked, there have been several others that have bitten the dust. Director Srinivass Redde’s Dhamarukam is set in this genre with a generous dose of commercial elements. The film opens with the mythological battle between devas and asuras, resulting in the latter clan being almost wiped out. A lone asura, Andhakasura (Ravi Shankar), managed to survive and goes into hiding and penance and awaits his chance to regain control over the world. The time he has been waiting for arrives a few thousand years later. A girl with the divinity of goddess Parvati is born and sadhus sense something ominous in her horoscope charts. If the girl is wedded to the asura and offered as sacrifice, nothing can stop the asura from taking control over the five elements of nature and re-establishing the dominance of rakshasa clan.

The asura learns that a 12-year-old boy Mallikarjuna, a devout worshipper of Shiva, maybe his only hindrance. The asura wipes out the boy’s parents and grandparents and assumes the boy and his sister have succumbed too. The boy survives (Nagarjuna) but develops hatred for lord Shiva whom he feels has let his family down. So far so good and you are hooked to this unbelievable flight of fantasy. Then the film shifts gears to mainstream mass masala, peppered with comedy episodes by Brahmanandam and Co. and an item number by Charmme. The girl with the ominous horoscope is Maheshwari (Anushka Shetty). Does the non-believer Mallikarjuna turn believer and fulfil his karma of saving the girl and thereby the world?

Dhamarukam moves at a brisk pace initially, only to go off track for a while. The comic portions draw the required laughs but get boring after a point. And, after Andhakasura declares he will wipe out anyone who develops a soft corner for Maheshwari, we are all set for a grand tussle between the asura and Mallikarjuna. The film, though, gets to that point only after the lead pair actors have had plenty of time to dance in exotic locales. The final episode puts the focus back on the story. The visual effects and graphics, though jarring at a few places, rise up to the occasion. The fiery world of the asura and the ghats in Khasi where the aghoras reside are all stunningly depicted.

After the sober, saintly avatar as Sai Baba, Nagarjuna slips into mainstream mode like a veteran and goes with the flow of the film. Anushka Shetty fits the bill of a woman in trouble. Social fantasy is not new to her (Arundhati) and she sails through effortlessly. Her character could have been weightier and the inconsistencies in her characterisation (is she a house surgeon or a doctor? And we don’t see any medical insights from her after her father meets with an accident) could have been avoided. Prakash Raj appears in a brief but impactful role as lord Shiva. But Dhamarukam’s surprise package is Ravi Shankar as Andhakasura. He has the physicality of pull off the role, matched with his booming voice and menacing looks.

The premise of an evil man wanting to sacrifice a woman might remind you of films like Bhairava Deepam. The idea of building a story around the concept of an asura is laudable. But do we really have to see the asura lusting after a woman taking a dip in a temple pond?

Go for this one for the visual effects and the sheer idea of an asura fighting for his supremacy.

DHAMARUKAM

Cast: Nagarjuna, Ravi Shankar, Anushka Shetty and Prakash Raj

Direction: Srinivass Redde

Plot: Andhakasura, a rakshasa, wants to seek revenge on the gods and re-establish the dominance of asuras

Bottomline: A social fantasy meets mass masala.