Reviews

Ism: An ‘ism’ for every trouble

Aditi Arya and Kalyan Ram  

‘Ism’ is a curious title that isn’t just representative of journalism, the profession under Puri Jagannadh’s spotlight. Puri tells his audience that the work done by his protagonist is nothing short of patriotism. In the titles, he makes it clear that his story is inspired by the likes of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

The crux of ‘ism’ is built on incidents akin to real-life happenings — black money stashed away in secret offshore bank accounts, farmers succumbing to the weight of their loans and ending their lives, a cricket betting scandal, and a powerful don who lives in a safe haven that’s inaccessible to intelligence agencies but enjoys a cloak of protection thanks to political connections.

The idea of an undercover journalist, an investigating officer or a shrewd common man taking on powerful forces isn’t new. In spite of several mainstream films having explored similar ideas, vigilante films always find an audience. How a filmmaker treats such ideas makes all the difference. Puri unabashedly plays to the gallery.

Before the true identity of Kalyan Ram is revealed, there’s plenty of screen time for him to relentlessly stalk Aditi Arya, who plays don Javed Bhai’s (Jagapathi Babu) daughter. When a film shows a hero chasing the girl and telling her that he will tie a ‘thaali’ around her neck the next time he sets sight on her, one just thinks of the writer/filmmaker who’s written and executed the scene and wonders if no one in the film unit found it objectionable. It isn’t fun when the heroine’s friend, wearing a short dress, is called ‘bottomless’. Stalking isn’t romance. Ism is an example of glorifying stalking on screen and one can cite several scenes and dialogues for this.

The films falls on track when it gets to its core idea and unravels how Kalyan Ram operates and what he and his friends, passionate about their work that’s funded by like-minded people, intend to do. An interesting earlier track shows Jagapathi Babu and Kalyan Ram bonding over a few smokes, with the former unaware of the latter’s intention. Somewhere, you pause and wonder if a dreaded don would easily bond with a stranger over a smoke, but you let that thought pass because of the way the segment has been handled.

Jagapathi Babu seems to be getting better at his suave act with each passing film and is easily a highlight of Ism. Kalyan Ram, sporting six pack abs and a new look, puts in his best effort to up the game. Vennela Kishore is wasted in an ill-written part and so is newcomer Aditi Arya, who has nothing much to do but pout and look good. She gets enough screen time but is stuck with a character that’s silly to not realise she’s a pawn in a larger game. Tanikella Bharani makes in a mark in a brief role.

There’s a brief segment where the plight of farmers is discussed through a character by Gollapudi Maruthi Rao. Moments like these stand out in the film.

Ism finds its groove in the later portions and raises relevant questions. A better narrative and the stalking done away with, it would have made for an engaging watch.

ISM

Cast: Kalyan Ram, Aditi Arya, Jagapathi Babu

Direction: Puri Jagannadh

Music: Anoop Rubens

Rating: 2.5

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 3:09:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/Ism-An-%E2%80%98ism%E2%80%99-for-every-trouble/article16077784.ece

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