‘Bimbisara’ review: Intriguing film that needed a tighter treatment

Kalyan Ram impresses in director Mallidi Vassishta’s socio-fantasy Telugu film

August 06, 2022 04:35 pm | Updated 04:35 pm IST

A still from the film

A still from the film | Photo Credit: NTR Arts

Bimbisara is not an ordinary period film. It seems as if debutant director Mallidi Vassishta built a theme park period narrative around an idea that is straight out of his childhood fantasy. What seems like a period time-travel film that puts on the guise of a masala hero-vehicle, acquires heft with Nandamuri Kalyan Ram’s presence.

The film begins in the year 500 B.C when Bimbisara (Kalyan Ram) is the emperor of the Trigartala empire. A vile egomaniac, his violent antics have no limit. However, his ego trip ends when his banished twin brother Devadatta ambushes him and teleports him — through a magical mirror — to the present-day world. Bimbisara's arrival favours Subramanya Sastri (Vivan Bhatena) and godman Kethu (Ayyappa P Sharma), who have their eyes set on an Ayurveda book titled Dhanwanthari which is safely locked in Bimbisara's treasure vault, which only he can open.

The film doesn’t shy away from dealing with magic and is not brimming with realism and logic. Unfortunately, the setting up of this world is uninspiring. Scene after scene keeps reestablishing Bimbisara’s might and viciousness, to the point that you begin to worry if the film will celebrate this anti-hero. The tacky set designs and visual effects also do not help. To add to the misery, we get an item number featuring Warina Hussain that once again sings the praise of Bimbisara’s might. In retrospect, these sequences actually do no justice to what good is to follow.

Cast: Kalyan Ram, Catherine Tresa, Samyuktha Menon
Direction: Mallidi Vassishta
Music: M M Keeravani
Runtime: 147 minutes
Storyline: Bimbisara, a ruthless king from 500 B.C, gets teleported to the present-day world through a magical mirror

Things do take a turn for the good once Bimbisara finds himself in the present-day world. So we have a lost medieval king strutting down a busy Hyderabad highway —reminiscent of earlier Telugu films featuring Lord Yama on earth — making for amusing situations and eliciting chuckles.

The subtext in these scenes truly stands apart. Given how most popular cinema likes to bank on the morbid nature of the reality we live in, Bimbisara makes a case for all the good in our times. It puts a ruthless, barbaric king in our world and makes him witness this goodness. With Bimbisara, we too remind ourselves of how far the civilised society has moved forward.

The writing of Bimbisara’s character is fascinating as well. It is no mean feat to make the audiences buy the redemption of someone as vile as this character. He doesn’t even flinch before killing a child! Yet, Mallidi Vassishta manages to build the character progression gradually and convincingly. If not for a performer like Kalyan Ram, there is a high chance that a character with such an arc would have fallen flat, and with it, the film. Kalyan uses the big screen to its full potential and owns it all. He also draws a subtle distinction between Bimbisara and Devadutta in scenes featuring the siblings.

On the flip side, with the titular character consuming so much space, little is left for the female leads. Catherine Tresa, who plays a princess held captive by Bimbisara, vanishes for most parts of the film. Samyuktha Menon's SI Vyjayanthi also suffers the same fate. With no forewarning, the latter falls in love with Bimbisara but the romantic track goes nowhere. Srinivas Reddy as Bimbisara's lackey Zubeda, Vennela Kishore as constable Prasadam, and Brahmaji as private detective Brahmalokam add the much-needed levity.

Bimbisara is filled with intriguing ideas that could have made for an engaging watch. It's definitely a refreshing take on an age-old formula. However, the screenplay struggles to get to its points throughout the film. Even when we see where an idea is leading, we are asked to wait for it until the drama finishes unfolding. Add the unnecessary melodrama and the plotholes that the film doesn't address, it becomes a rather tedious watch. A tighter narrative would have worked wonders.

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