Movie review: Virupaksha

  • Release Date: –21/4/2023
  • Platform: – Netflix
  • Cast: – Sai Dharam Tej, Samyuktha Menon, Sunil, Rajeev Kanakala, Harishchandra Prasad
  • Director: – Karthik Varma Dandu

“Virupaksha” is one of those rare films that will be very difficult to classify into a specific genre, as it is a mishmash of various cinematic genres, and it excels in almost all of them.

Surya (Sai Dharam Tej), a tough young man, arrives in his ancestral village and immediately falls head over heels in love with Nandini (Samyuktha Menon), the mysterious daughter of the village headman, who suffers from acute epilepsy that threatens to leave her in a vegetative state at any moment. Nandini keeps evading Surya’s advances, but he is determined to win her heart.

As fate would have it, a bizarre incident forces the villagers to lock down their village for eight days and nights to protect themselves from certain death and annihilation.

During this time, Nandini has a sudden epileptic seizure, and Surya jumps in to save her life. However, he gets trapped in the village for the next eight days and nights. Things take a horrifying turn when villagers are brutally murdered every passing day without any apparent reason. The situation escalates when Nandini’s life is threatened, forcing Surya to uncover the dark secret haunting the village.

What happens next not only surprises the audience who might have been expecting a run-of-the-mill supernatural thriller by this point, but also leaves them exasperated.

Breakneck speed and unshakeable intrigue:

“Virupaksha” moves at a breakneck speed, whether it’s the romance, the action, the exposition, or even the dramatic portions. The film progresses so quickly and has so much dialogue that at many points, I had to rewind to understand what had already been said. The fact that every word spoken in the film is important and necessary to grasp its numerous twists, turns, and subtle nuances makes it a film that demands your attention from start to finish.

Upon rewatching, I realized that the film had provided enough clues about the various characters through mannerisms and visual cues that are cleverly hidden in plain sight, making complete sense when you know the story and watch the film a second time. Thus, “Virupaksha” is one of those rare films that becomes even more enjoyable upon repeat viewing.

Engaging and impactful thrill and horror elements:

The thrills and horror elements in the film are extremely well executed. It starts off as more of an occult thriller but gradually transforms into something that borders on supernatural horror.

Some genuinely scary moments almost made me reach for the remote to turn it off. I watched this film with all the lights off in an empty house on my 32-inch full HD TV, and it truly gave me the heebie-jeebies. Much of this can be attributed to the atmosphere created by the director. The atmosphere is an organic blend of cinematography, storytelling tropes, background score, editing, and performances. The film scores in all these departments.

The story is the hero here:

The story of the film is one of its greatest strengths. While it is simplistic in nature, the director’s style of storytelling makes it special. It should also be noted that the narrative is filled with numerous twists and turns that keep piling up as the film progresses at an unstoppable pace. The fact that each of these twists is well earned and never feels like fake thrills ensures that the audience’s confidence in the storytelling remains intact throughout.

Powerful performances from the ensemble cast:

It must be acknowledged that this film wouldn’t have been the same without the exceptional performances from the ensemble cast.

Sai Dharam Tej leads from the front, portraying a character under duress from start to finish. He had to maintain a certain level of energy throughout and effectively convey the tumultuous nature of the conflict and the ever-shifting balance of luck in the film. His love for Samyuktha’s character is organically developed, giving the audience enough reason to accept that Surya would risk everything for her. Thus, suspension of disbelief is aided not only by the performances but also by the writing.

Samyuktha as Nandini is fantastic. Her character has numerous layers, and she masterfully handles the challenging aspects demanded of her character, especially towards the end of the film. Even in portraying the more outrageous and bizarre aspects, Samyuktha remains graceful, commanding respect and reverence. She flawlessly transitions between the various facets of her character, making her not only mysterious but also unpredictable.

Superbly choreographed action:

There is a considerable amount of action in the film, and most of it is executed with conviction and surprising physicality. There is a chase sequence in the second half that had me on the edge of my seat.

It was executed with such power and gusto that I was in awe of the action choreographer and the director for delivering such an outstanding piece of action in a film that is not primarily an action film. There is at least one hand-to-hand combat scene that showcases the action choreography and how well it is captured on camera.

Background score contributes to the horror and thrill elements:

The background score of the film is used effectively to convey a sense of uneasiness and sometimes horror. It is widely acknowledged that the background score plays a crucial role in establishing and evoking feelings of dread and fear in the audience, and the director of “Virupaksha” employs it to great effect.

Poor visual effects are the only drawback of the film:

The only aspect of the film that could have been improved is the visual effects. There is a lot of visual work in the film, and the success and realism of some of the thrilling and dramatic moments rely heavily on how well the visual effects are executed. This is the only area where the film falls short, primarily due to budget constraints rather than a lack of vision.

It must be mentioned in defence of the film and its creators that the creativity, overall solid performances, and envisioning of other aspects of the film largely divert our attention from the weak visual effects. 

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Sadly, their shortcomings become apparent during key moments when we are deeply engaged with the story and characters, momentarily disrupting the experience. Nonetheless, the success of this film will undoubtedly boost the morale of its creators and others like them who may now be entrusted with bigger budgets due to the profits this film is likely to generate and the reception it has received from the masses, despite its unconventional idea and treatment.

Final words:

I thoroughly enjoyed “Virupaksha.” I watched it for a second time immediately after the first viewing. I believe a Hindi dubbed version of the film would be more accessible for Hindi-speaking audiences due to its heavy dialogue and fast-paced nature. Spirited performances from Sai Dharam Tej, Samyuktha Menon, and the ensemble cast, intriguing storytelling, superb editing and technicalities, and efficient direction are at the core of this film’s success.

Although the visual effects could have been better, it only momentarily detracts from the storytelling and can be easily overlooked. Overall, it offers an extremely entertaining and gripping experience for anyone willing to invest their time in reading subtitles while keeping up with the mind-bogglingly fast-paced proceedings.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position

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