'Calling Sahasra', starring 'Jabardasth' fame Sudigaali Sudheer in the lead, was released in theatres this Friday. In this section, we are going to review the thriller:
Ajay Srivastava (Sudheer Anand) is a Hyderabad-based cybersecurity analyst who falls in love with Swathi (Dolly Shah), a new acquaintance. When he procures a new SIM card, strange and inexplicable things start to confound him. He starts receiving calls and SMSes from his own mobile phone in a surreal turn of events. Just when he attempts to crack the puzzle, he gets entangled in a murder. The rest of the film depicts his singular fight to uncork the mystery of the mobile phone, the mystery caller, and determine if everything is the handiwork of a supernatural force or a sinister human.
A gripe against film reviewers is that they use the term 'TV serial production values' every other Friday. If the term has to be used with the confidence of a Swamy Nithyananda delivering a harebrained sermon, 'Calling Sahasra' is the one that deserves it without reservations. In fact, some TV serials have better colour grading. This reviewer watched this movie on a national multiplex screen and the aesthetics were insufferable despite the general screen quality.
The film plays at a speed of 0.5x, the conversations periodically spoon-feed the audience, and the ageist comedy involving the male lead's sidekick comes with subpar comic timing. The director's attempt at making a genre-bending movie by relying on worn-out tropes (the confusion between hallucination and reality, for instance) tests the viewer's patience within the first 30 minutes itself. The film's production design choices are about shooting a love song amid 'picchi chetlu' on the outskirts of a city.
The core plot takes forever to arrive. By the time the intermission arrives, you are treated to a young, over-friendly female guest in a forlorn 2BHK trying to scare two men in utter vain. The conversations between the lead pair are atrocious. Sample this: Swathi is a professional costume designer who is inspired for a lifetime after she listens to the male lead explain to her the difference between tailoring and designing. You needn't be a feminist to get triggered by this senseless dumbing down of the female lead just to show your male lead as a smartass male.
Happy discoveries and artificial coincidences put all the contrived thrillers out there to shame. Siva Balaji plays a limping character whose dialogue delivery can induce sleep in a snap. The BGM conveys a melodramatic mood or a horror mood, or worse, it goes silent. There are stretches that make it clear that post-production was completed in a hurry because if you can't compete with 'Animal' at the box office, what is the purpose of your life?
Sudheer is suited for a particular brand of comedy. The makers of 'Jabardasth' (the TV comedy show) knew that and played to his strengths. He is not a hero material and 'Calling Sahasra' proves it beyond doubt. He struggles to emote and his misery is made worse by sloppy editing and sloppier camera angles.
'Calling Sahasra' is a nightmare. Its medieval production values and silly writing induce a pounding headache.