A dishevelled woman, dressed in rags, gazes gloomily at the desolated Gandharva Mahal from a distance and walks away. The promos hinted that the film belongs to what the Telugu film industry likes to term as the ‘socio-fantasy’ genre.

Following Chandramukhi and Arundhati, you wonder if yet another film will travel a similar path of rebirth and revenge. Like Chandramukhi, the palatial house here conceals a bitter tale from the past. But thankfully, Uu Kodathara Ulikki Padathara (UKUP in short) does not tread the beaten-to-death path. There is revenge, of course, which plays out in the climax with a lot of bloodbath.

Rayudu (Prabhu) is the son of late Narasimha Rayudu (Balakrishna), who once lived like a king in the palatial Gandharva Mahal. Rayudu and his family now live in a small house adjacent to the palace, while the grand house is inhabited by a bunch of unruly tenants.

Manoj arrives on a Harley Davidson and with Rayudu’s permission, becomes the newest tenant. You don’t have to exercise your grey cells to figure out that he is here for a reason. One scene where he meets his mother Suhasini and promises to protect the palace is an affirmation. Manoj scares the living daylights out of the other tenants and when he learns that the palace is to be given away as dowry for Rayudu’s elder daughter’s wedding, he does all that’s possible in his capacity to prevent the palace from changing hands, even if that means having to pit one against the other to stop the marriage. In between all this, there is ample screen time for him to chase Rayudu’s younger daughter Deeksha Seth (when will Telugu cinema stop objectifying its leading women?).

The film crawls at a snail’s pace until Balakrishna, rather his spirit that still lives in the house, comes into picture. A royal spectacle follows as UKUP takes you into the lives of Narasimha Rayudu and his family and the gloom that descends on them when Bhoopathy (Sonu Sood) arrives.

UKUP comes into its own in the second half, unfolding a tale of love, deceit, greed and gore. Balakrishna is at his best, leading this portion of the film from the front. Watching him handle the role with majesty, you wonder why directors don’t cast him in roles that suit his age and maturity.

Lakshmi Manchu as the woman in rags, Amruthavalli, is the surprise package. She relishes her cameo and breathes fire into the climax, oscillating between devilishness and innocence. She steals the show even as Manoj comes up with one of his best performances in the climax. Speaking of Manoj, as the film progresses he moves from being brattish and over-the-top to a restrained performer. In some frames, one can’t help but notice as he watches Balakrishna with awe.

The strength of the film lies in its second half. A bit of editing would have gone a long way in salvaging the first half. The story has several sub plots, some of which are needless to the main story. In a film like this, logic goes for a toss. Ignore a few cinematic liberties and watch it for Balakrishna and Laksmi.

UU KODATHARA ULIKKI PADATHARA

Cast: Balakrishna, Manoj, Prabhu, Lakshmi Prasanna and Sonu Sood

Director: Sekhar Raja

Music: Bobo Sasi

Plot: An abandoned house has a past and to restore it to its original glory, a demon has to be slayed.

Bottom line: Takes a long time to pick up pace. When it does, it’s a gripping fantasy tale right to the finish.