In its final moments, as the end credits roll, Eagle continues to present snapshots of a few plot points that will add layers to its protagonist’s characterisation and his mission. This does not come as a surprise; at least a handful of star-led action entertainers in recent years have opted for this method of revealing nuggets towards the end to emphasise that the saga is far from over. In Eagle, co-written by director Karthik Gattamneni and Manibabu Karanam, the epilogue packs quite a bit. Had the narrative that led to this portion been riveting, instead of a partially interesting tale that lacked a more engaging screenplay, the film would have been sharper. There is a huge difference between the film and what it could have been.
Eagle begins from the premise of unravelling the truth about a professional sniper who is on the hit list of RAW (research and analysis wing). Nalini (Anupama Parameswaran), a Delhi-based journalist, comes across a superior quality cotton accessory at a crafts and textile bazaar; she is told that the man who helped this weaving movement in Talakona is now missing. Nalini’s editor doesn’t see anything important in the story and relegates it to a filler. Soon, the intelligence wing and police force come knocking. Nalini is fired but sets out to find the truth.
In several ways, Nalini is like us, the audience, trying to make sense of the bits and pieces of information from people living in the Talakona forest area. The people she talks to range from an elderly man to a local cop, an MLA and his personal secretary to a tea stall owner. They all speak in adulation, fear or both about the mysterious man whose sharp shooting techniques have earned him the title, Eagle.
In the pre-release interviews, the director had stated that the narrative unfolds in a point-of-view style and cited the examples of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Kamal Haasan’s Virumandi. However, most of the accounts Nalini listens to in this film serve to hype the hero’s character rather than adding complexity or intrigue. The humour is also mundane.
It takes a long time for the larger picture to be revealed. The non-linear narrative goes back and forth in time and introduces us to a medley of characters — Ajay Ghosh as a local MLA, Srinivasa Reddy as his secretary, Mirchi Kiran as the local cop, Srinivas Avasarala as the RAW officer, Madhoo as a RAW senior officer, Praneeta Pattanaik as a former Naxal, and Navdeep as Eagle’s trusted friend and confidante, Jai.
Ravi Teja plays a world-weary middle-aged character named Sahadev Varma, who is hardly required to say anything in the first half. His brooding presence and demeanour conceals a past. Karthik Gattamneni’s narrative is faintly reminiscent of Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Vikram in terms of a mysterious hero returning years later to fight a larger battle. As against the drug cartel in Lokesh’s films, Eagle deals with the illegal arms trade.
Karthik throws in a brief love story that serves as an emotional anchor for the battle. The romance between Ravi Teja and Rachana (Kavya Thapar) happens through sniper vision and this narrative choice comes in handy a little later to underline the issue of the illegal gun trade and its ramifications. Both Ravi Teja and Navdeep are on mark in playing their characters, with the former wearing both the grey shades and the change of heart on his sleeve with conviction.
With all the wait and building of the protagonist’s aura, some of the payoffs in the later half are interesting. Though long drawn, the battle around Eagle’s fortress has a few bright moments. The surprises that the fortress holds in its design makes for an engaging large screen action experience. Sri Nagendra and Tangala’s production design deserves a mention here. Similarly, the action set pieces that unfold in Poland as well as Talakona get deftly captured by Kamil Plocki, Karm Chawla and Karthik, accentuated by Davzand’s music that tries to give the titular character an international appeal.
One of the film’s underwhelming aspects is the one-liners that try to alleviate the central character further. At one point when a character tells Nalini that anyone with language skills can read the Bhagavad Gita but one needs intelligence to comprehend it, I wondered if such an example is needed for Eagle’s story. Told in a straightforward manner, it would be a story of a man who finds his purpose in life, introspects and goes through a change of heart after a fateful turn of events and decides to do his bit for a global issue. Through the course of the film, even till the finish line, several supporting characters talk in riddles when they narrate Eagle’s story and it gets annoying.
On a lighter note, I also wondered who funds Nalini’s research as it takes her to different countries. Her graphic novel takes shape only at a later juncture. Until then, she is an independent journalist following leads and trying to find the story. Anupama plays Nalini with the tenacity and inquisitiveness required for a journalist.
Eagle tries to navigate issues ranging from cotton weaving to bauxite mining and illegal weapon trade, while also trying to be a mainstream Telugu action drama with mass moments. In the process, it struggles to find its rhythm. With sharper writing, it could have been a more engaging action drama.