‘Aarambham’ movie review: This science fiction drama partly holds interest

Debut director Ajay Nag’s Telugu film ‘Aarambham’ scores in some portions and tests patience in others

Updated - May 10, 2024 06:12 pm IST

Published - May 10, 2024 06:00 pm IST

Telugu film ‘Aarambham’ explores prison break and science fiction

Telugu film ‘Aarambham’ explores prison break and science fiction | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The meaning of the film’s title Aarambham (beginning) and the Kannada book it is adapted from, Neenu Ninnolage Khaidi (I am a prisoner like you; by Anush A Shetty), trickles in and makes an impression towards the final portions of the film, after a few surprises are revealed. The final stretch provides answers to several questions, the most important of them involving a prison break, and is rewarding in that sense. But the journey towards these portions could have been better. Quite a bit works in favour of debut director Ajay Nag’s film — the freshness with which he and his technical team approach a sci-fi drama set in an idyllic village, not abiding by mainstream tropes — but some portions warrant patient viewing, with the ideas not translating into an engaging drama.

Aarambham begins as a prison break mystery. Prisoner no. 299, Miguel (Mohan Bhagath) has disappeared from his cell leaving no clues. Detectives Chaitanya (Ravindra Vijay) and Madhav (Abhishek Boddepalli) are called in to help. All they have at their disposal is Miguel’s diary and anecdotes provided by jail inmate Ganesh (Laxman Meesala). The urgency of solving the prison break is replaced by science fiction that the detectives have to understand to find answers.

Aarambham (Telugu)
Director: Ajay Nag
Cast: Mohan Bhagath, Supritha Satyanarayan, Surabhi Prabhavathi
Storyline: A prisoner escapes mysteriously and the answer may lie in a science experiment.

The milieu is established beautifully with Devdeep Gandhi Kundu’s camera capturing the verdant, rustic setting that forms the world of Miguel, Leelamma (Surabhi Prabhavathi), Subramanya Rao (Bhushan Kalyan) and Sharada (Supritha Satyanarayan). Sinjith Yerramilli’s music and CS Manicka Prabhu’s sound design add charm to the drama that unfolds among these characters.

A childhood anecdote of how Miguel meets the eccentric scientist, Subramanya Rao, and strikes a rapport is described with a touch of innocence. Miguel asks if he can take the scientist’s television antenna and use it to see images on his radio set, and the two form an unlikely rapport. The bond that Miguel shares with Leelavathi, his mother-like figure, gets established by and by. It is these bonds and even the occasional discussion of loneliness that the characters express that cements the drama and holds our interest when the science fiction portions get tiresome. The story also introduces an angle of local feud that sometimes sticks out like a sore thumb. 

The narrative discusses the concept of déjà vu, infinity, travelling in a loop in a bid to simplify the scientific experiment and the story is divided into eight chapters, unveiling surprises towards the later portions. 

The science experiment does not hold interest after a point since a strong reason for it is not established. An old scar in the life of Rao gets discussed but that did not feel enough. We also don’t get adequate information about how Rao connects with the scientific community outside this far-flung hilly region (Aarambham is filmed in picturesque Shimoga) and what he hopes to do if he succeeds in his experiment. 

Apart from the cinematography and music, Mohan Bhagat’s performance keeps us invested. The narrative also discusses how one cannot change destiny but explores how, if given a chance, we can be more empathetic and make good memories. These portions involving two of the principal characters augur well.

Aarambham is a brave experiment from the alumni of a film school who aren’t afraid to go beyond mainstream tropes. However, the narrative needed more zing to make it engrossing.

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