'Natyam', a film admittedly made to propagate the importance of Indian classical dance forms, arrived at the cinemas today (October 22). Made by a new director and starring non-stars, it is a medium-budgeted film. Does it hold the audience's interest in its material? Is it worth a watch? What are its hits and misses? Here we tell you in our review.
The film has a fictional premise. The Britishers destroyed the Indian dance traditions in their attempt to culturally enslave Indians. When all hope was lost, a Goddess appeared and dished out a new treatise on dance. The treatise has withstood the test of time and has a myth associated with it in the fictional village Natyam.
Sitara (Sandhya Raju), who was born decades after the divine event, wants to narrate a tale that dates back to the British era. Her attempts fail because her guru (Adithya Menon) is wary of something inauspicious happening to her if she takes up the Kadambari story. Sitara's trainer Hari (Kamal Kamaraju) has a stake in her future when Rohith (Rohith Behal), a dancer from the city, visits the village and unwittingly changes Sitara's destiny.
Debutante Sandhya Raju, who is 'Satyam' Ramalinga Raju's daughter-in-law, brings to the table her classical dancing skills. Since she is not a regular commercial actress, it takes the audience some time to buy into her style. To be sure, she surprises with some of the nuanced expressions. She would have done well to avoid the attempt at low-key comedy, which is definitely not her strength.
Both Rohith Behal and Kamal Kamaraju have an equally important role in the story. Adithya Menon, who is used to essaying negative characters, is more a victim here. Subhalekha Sudhakar and others are uniformly boring.
Shravan Bharadwaj's music and background score may not be innovative throughout, but his work has its merits. 'Venuvulo' is excellent, complete with neat choreography. The climax needed the involvement of the composer as well as the chief choreographer (Sandhya Raju herself) at a deep level. The cinematography, by director Revanth Korukonda himself, is smart here and there. The scene where a character orders musicians not to play music when the female protagonist is on the stage is an example of his talent. The camera placement is effective in many places.
Sandhya Raju also takes the responsibility of production design. The story is set in a fictional village, which is a temple town in its own right. The ambience should have given the feeling of a thoroughly lived-in place by a micro-community. In the hands of a seasoned production designer, the desired impact would have come through.
Dance-based movies have taken several forms. 'Love Story' was wrongly projected as one. But since the dances there were by star actors and the genre was not classical, the audience wouldn't have minded one more song. 'Natyam', on the other hand, is in K Viswanath territory. Director Revanth, who has lived in the US for many years, is not a fan of Hollywood movies but draws his inspiration from Vittalacharya. So, it's not surprising that the sensibilities of 'Natyam' are not too commercial.
A downside is that 'Natyam' doesn't have the stylized vibes of a commercial, glamourized dace movie. It could have been that way without diluting the integrity of the story. The staging of the 'Om Namah Shivay' song in the first act mirrors the conviction of the director. The elaborate dance choreography in the climax is another example of Sandhya Raju's and her director's love for dance.
Everything said, 'Natyam' doesn't quite hit the bull's eye. It's found wanting in a number of respects. The telling of the momentous events is dull in the second half. The arc of Sandhya Raju's character is respectable but it somehow doesn't translate well in terms of execution.
A decent first half comes undone by an underwhelming second half.