A cop loses his official pistol, which changes hands at a pace that is tough to track. A series of murders rock the city. The premise lends itself to an edge-of-the-seat thriller that can give us a glimpse into the police procedures and the working of the crime network as the cop races against time to find the gun and save his job.
Senapathi is a Telugu adaptation of the 2017 Tamil film 8 Thottakkal (eight bullets) written and directed by Sri Ganesh, which was in turn loosely inspired by Akira Kurosowa’s Stray Dog (1949). What gives the crime drama an edge are the backstories of the cop Krishna (Naresh Agasthya) and the man at the other end, Krishna Murthy (Rajendra Prasad), along with smaller stories of other characters caught in this tussle.
The able technical team and Shravan Bharadwaj’s background score keep the atmosphere brooding and gritty as the film traverses the maze-like conduits of crime in the bylanes of Hyderabad.
- Cast: Rajendra Prasad, Naresh Agastya, Harshavardhan
- Direction: Pavan Sadineni
- Music: Shravan Bharadwaj
- Streaming on: Aha
The opening portions introduce us to Krishna, a boy who is framed by his employer and a cop for a murder he did not commit and sent to a juvenile home. The jail warden instils in him a sense of hope and encourages him to become a policeman, rather than be overcome by bitterness. Narrated in black and white, these portions establish the sincere cop Krishna’s character and make us empathise with his angst when his eight-bullet Bruni pistol goes missing.
Krishna has steered clear of bitterness, but what happens if someone much older who has consistently borne the brunt of a flawed system, is pushed to the edge? That contrasting character, Krishna Murthy, cannot outrightly be labelled black or white. We meet Krishna Murthy much later, after the cops have navigated the city’s crime network and thrown up their arms declaring that it is tough to track the pistol if it has gone into the hands of a common man.
In his introduction scene, we don’t get a clear view of Krishna Murthy. But we hear his voice. A voice that we often associate with comic or paternal character roles. The sense of respectability and geniality in his voice is shattered by the darker act that he is involved in. Rajendra Prasad is a brilliant choice for the role and he gives it his all, shifting easily between being an ageing family man who is perceived to be a burden and someone who doesn’t hesitate to kill.
In a scene that appears random at first, he asserts the importance of a ‘senapathi’ in a game of chess. Later, as more layers to his character are revealed, the statement assumes greater importance. In a tangential reference, his character also reminded me of ‘Senapathy’, the character played by Kamal Haasan in director Shankar’s Indian (1996).
While Rajendra Prasad steals the show, also making a mark is Naresh Agastya, speaking very little but effectively conveying the urgency as he realises the magnitude of the crimes being committed with his pistol.
Some of the smaller characters that act as the cog in the wheel of this crime drama also have their own little story arcs. Jeevan Kumar gets a few hilarious scenes as a gangster. Rakendu Mouli (who has also written the dialogues) and Josh Ravi do their parts well.
The rushed romance between Krishna and journalist Satya (Gnaneswari Kandregula) is the only aspect that doesn’t sync well with the rest of the story, but thankfully, it is brief.
Senapathi begins with the promise of an edge of the seat crime drama but gradually becomes an emotional tale. The emotional portions feel lengthy and stretched; had it been shorter, it would have added to the slow burn atmosphere of the crime drama.
When a senior cop, Param (effectively portrayed by Harsha Vardhan), is brought in to speed up the investigation, it gives the story some momentum. But eventually, connecting the dots seems to happen at a leisurely pace.
Despite all this, Senapathi is a fairly engrossing story of crime, punishment and redemption.
(Senapathi streams on Aha)