India (2020) Dir. Kartik Anand
It’s one thing to have a reputation that brings infamy to your name but what happens when you change? How do you go about earning people’s trust again when you are only associated with trouble?
College life is a chore for Yuva (Karteek Anand), the number one delinquent on campus, who even the teachers have little control over. The person he hates the most is golden boy Revanth (Munna), who has been allowed to host the annual festival, on the proviso that there isn’t a repeat of the trouble from the previous year.
Yuva knows he can’t touch Revanth until after the fest, so he decides to wreck it instead though his plans tend to fail. After falling for new student Shobita (Dimple Hayathi) and getting a talking to from old friend Jahnavi (Shalini Vadnikatti), Yuva decides to clean up his act but on the night of the fest, he finds Revanth’s dead body and knows he will be blamed for the murder.
Well, this is a quite a revelation. After years of seeing films based in US schools and colleges, as well as the odd trip to Asian and European classrooms, Eureka marks the first time seeing the adventures of student life in India on screen. However, I’m not sure if it is an accurate depiction of Indian further education as the film is a comedy (of sorts) and does its best to mirror the rowdy exploits of US teen flicks.
First time actor, writer, and director Karteek Anand presents the first Telugu or Tollywood film to be reviewed on this site. It’s probably unfair to judge Tollywood from this one film but it doesn’t seem be any different from Bollywood films – overlong, glamorous cast, musical numbers (but no dance routines).
Straight away, the idea this might be a spoof of US teen films is found in the male cast all looking to be in their thirties – they may not be, but with their thick beards they certainly look it. The adult teachers barely looking older is also part of the confusion, making it hard to distinguish between student and tutor. The naturally glam women only look to be in their 20s, cementing any illusion of credible teenage life as non-existent.
Therefore, it is harder to take their juvenile antics seriously, unlike when they mouth off to their teachers and get away with it, since there are the same size or bigger than they are; then again, the teachers are largely inept and/or lazy practically given the students a free licence to misbehave. Only computer teacher Mr. Adi (Brahmaji) dares crack the whip, as he is upset classes are suspended during fest week, a frustration that puts him in the frame for Revanth’s murder.
Practically all of the first hour is build up to this dastardly deed, though very little of it is actually useful or relevant to the act itself, serving instead to establish the opposing dichotomy of Revanth and Yuva. As it transpires, Yuva wasn’t always a troublemaker – a poorly explained incident during a crucial exam in his second year saw him lose faith in the college and turned him into a hardened rebel.
In fact, there is a lot in this film which is poorly explained and not just limited to the exposition but the characters too. Yuva is the only one with a backstory, everyone else is left to make their mark via their personalities, which seldom vary and comes across as unapologetically tropey. Once Revanth’s body is discovered, we finally have some focus with a murder to solve. The story truly perks up by revealing a number of other potential suspects than Yuva – all had entered the room the murder took place in, and had a dark motive or personal interest to protect.
Had the first hour not been so cluttered with lame attempts at emulating US teen flick humour, and trying too hard to establish what a tool Yuva is before his change of heart, the subliminal clues leading up to the multiple suspects might not have been so easily missed. Of course is the point of clues, but some of the characters they are related to barely feature, making their inclusion feel so last minute.
But if you can looks past this and the gaping plot holes, which are ignored for the sake of convenience, there are some nice twists, clever red herrings, and smart misdirection in teasing whom the culprit is, showing Anand can put together a decent story when focused. He even gets cheekily meta for one swerve, reminding us this is a comedy despite a clear tonal shift and sudden moral high ground tone over destructive acts aimed at teenagers, but actually works if you can accept the overall context of it falls into.
What is harder to divine is whether Anand is driven by ambition to make a big splash with his debut, or if he chose to throw everything bar the kitchen sink to get noticed. There is a lot of extraneous material to be filtered out before the story becomes apparent, suggesting he wanted to have some fun before getting down to business but every good writer knows, this needs to happen around the plot and not away from it.
Unfortunately, the acting is a mixed bag of passable comedy turns to earnest supporting roles keeping things afloat, whilst others need a few more acting lessons before taking their next roles. Anand is somewhere in between which might be a side effect of also being the director. He shows a keen eye for visual ideas but tends to overuse them, along with the gimmicky editing and overuse of speed ramping.
There is a lot of potential to be found in Eureka, both for Anand as a filmmaker and as a silly film to be enjoyed, but non-Indian audiences might not be as patient in having to dig so deep to find it.
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