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‘Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya’ review: Crime story wrapped in humour

Shruti Sharma and Naveen Polishetty in a still from ‘Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya’

Shruti Sharma and Naveen Polishetty in a still from ‘Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya’  

Naveen Polishetty sparkles in this humorous detective thriller

The desk, mood board and the rest of the dimly lit room are somewhat cluttered. Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya (Naveen Polishetty) and his assistant Sneha (Shruti Sharma) are watching movies on the television set. Movie-watching is their exercise to learn crime solving. The assistant’s interest in becoming a detective harks back to The Hound of Baskervilles, which she read in school. Her task is to stay observant while watching a film and solve the problem much before the solutions play out on screen.

She’s assisting Agent Athreya, who has styled himself after Sherlock Holmes. Sporting trousers with suspenders, a long overcoat, and a hat, he walks into... a vegetable market in Nellore! For all that stylish swag, onion peels land on him. No one takes him seriously. Cops scoff at him. “Agent” is met with “LIC agent?” kind of responses.

Director Swaroop narrates a serious story of crime, cloaked in humour. It isn’t an easy mix to deal with. The detective might look like he’s goofing around but he’s pretty good at problem solving. He finds himself in the centre of an all-consuming murky scenario. Religious crime that rides on people’s beliefs and superstitions is at play here; the opening sequence is connected to what he will unravel later.

Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya
  • Cast: Naveen Polishetty, Shruti Sharma
  • Direction: Swaroop RSJ
  • Music: Mark K Robin

Naveen Polishetty is fantastic, enacting the shape-shifting character with aplomb. In sync with the setting, he occasionally speaks the Nellore yaasa (dialect) but can easily switch to a Brit accent — like Holmes addressing Dr Watson. His tone and body language change on other occasions too. This could have made him seem like a mimic, but he manages to pull off the part of a sharp-thinking detective with a humorous façade rather well. The actor shares the screenplay credits with the director and together, they narrate a complex story with several characters. Athreya pursues a case in the hope of furthering his position as a detective. However, nothing is what it seems to be.

The film unravels at a languorous pace, taking its time to establish Athreya and his method of work. It takes a long time before we feel that Athreya is actually cornered. Not every crime story needs to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller. Remember how some of the stories involving Holmes or Hercule Poirot take time to build steam and unfold in a part-procedural and part-conversational manner, punctuated with field trips pursuing different leads? This film perhaps draws its inspiration from such methodology. But, one has to hold viewer attention all through and this is where the team falters. A little trimming would have helped (the film’s duration is 148 minutes). Not every move needs to be spelt out and discussed in detail.

Nevertheless, the conviction with which Swaroop and Naveen tell an intriguing story in a format that’s a nod to Chantabbayi (1986) is laudable. Giving them ample support is the technical crew, led by Sunny Kurapati’s cinematography that accentuates the story’s mood. Mark K Robin delivers yet again; he seems to have had fun composing a score that blends suspense and comedy. Newcomer Shruti Sharma fits the part of an aspiring detective who likes her work, but will also point out that she’s been working overtime and could do with a compensatory off. Thankfully, there’s no romance between the assistant and the detective.

A sore point is the takeaway coffee cup Athreya keeps flaunting. There’s no Starbucks in Nellore, so did he get it from a big city? For all the detailing in the film, perhaps they could have addressed this as well.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 2:49:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/agent-sai-sreenivasa-athreya-review-naveen-polishetty-sparkles-in-this-humorous-detective-thriller/article28098797.ece

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