Karthavyam - Movie Review

Friday, March 16, 2018 - 00:15
Karthavyam - 2018
Cast & Crew: 

Film: Karthavyam
Cast: Nayanathara, Sunu Lakshmi, Kitty, E Ramdoss, Jeeva Ravi, Vignesh, Mahalakshmi
Music: Ghibran
Cinematography: Om Prakash
Editing: Ruben
Producers: Sharat Marrar, R Ravindran
Written and directed by: Gopi Nainar
Release date: March 16, 2018

'Karthavyam', starring Nayanthara, hits the screens on March 16. Here is our review of the thrilling drama.


There is this dry village near Sriharikota where women and men have to literally walk for kilometers to fetch water. Rams and Sunu Lakshmi are a poor couple whose humble world comprises of their preteen son and five-year-old daughter Dhansika. Even as Dhansika braces up to celebrate her birthday, she falls into a deep borewell. Life seems to come to an end for her poor parents.

Madhu Varshini (Nayanthara), a District Collector, is faced with the task of overseeing the operation to save Dhansika. This task is near-impossible to pull off for many reasons. She has to duck political pressure, motivate the medical and technical teams who face a resource crunch, placate the angry villagers who lose hope in the ability of the administration hour after hour, and race against time even as Dhansika gasps for oxygen.

Above all, she has to take decisions that defy logic. Should she be rational or emotional? What happens if her game plan doesn't work? It can put the child's life and the lives of others in danger. Madhu Varshini, who thinks with her heart rather than the brain, goes as per her own way. Will she rescue the child? That's the climax of this emotional thriller-like film.

What works?

Director Gopi Nainar's writing is nuanced. It comes with the right sensibilities. The poverty of the villagers, their helplessness vis-a-vis government officials, their endless wait for water in the dry land villages, the spirit they show when Dhansika (a poor kid) falls into the bore well, their solidarity, everything is depicted so very well. It's as if the director ensures we live in that village for the film's duration.

Before Nayanthara's role grows in importance, the film invests in Rams and Sunu Lakshmi, the girl's parents. They have to think twice before going to a doctor for fear of losing their entire savings. The father was a pro in Kabaddi as a teen and that's why he is sympathetic towards his son's passion for swimming. This is portrayed to evoke sympathy for them.

There is no attempt to romanticise the ordinariness of village life. Most films do this and end up being clichéd. 'Karthavyam' stays away from such temptations. For example, it's not the so-called attraction of tilling the land that excites the villagers. Rather, it's the soaring status of India whenever ISRO launches a rocket. This rocket thing is juxtaposed with the deep bore well, which becomes a symbol for everything that is wrong with India. The film's story is set in a village near Srihari Kota.

When the girl falls into danger, the laxity of the administration is shown so neatly. The officials are not inhuman; they are just slothful, sometimes even helpless. When the going gets tough, they are genuine in wanting to save the girl. They almost cry at their helplessness. All of this reflects the reality of human psychology.

Nayanthara's story is told in a suspenseful manner. Days after the rescue operation, she is being interrogated for being the wrong kind of IAS officer. This interrogation is narrated in instalments. Till the end, we wouldn't know whether the Collector was successful in saving the child.

The heroine doesn't overshadow other players, especially the girl's parents. She understands the psychology of the villagers and responds spontaneously. She is no symbol of wisdom; rather she is a crisis manager. Her characterization does away with all the cinematic clichés. The whole operation, which takes over a span of less than 24 hours, is narrated in a gripping fashion.

Small ideas can be very important. For example, in the climax, the operation involves the girl's parents. Had it not been the case, the impact would have suffered.

What doesn't work?
TV debate scenes involving Tammareddy Bharadwaj and Suddala have hampered the mood. They are very dry. The scenes where Kitty interrogates Nayan are a bit plain. They could have been much better, although they serve the purpose of revving up the suspense factor.

The political pressure element should have been told in a better way. Nayanathara's slow-motion walk in the final scene and following voice-over is a masala movie insert, which is complete contrast to the movie's style.

Performance score:

It's not a one-woman show.Nayanthara knows her brief and she delivers a measured performance. She looks elegant in sarees and doesn't look stiff like other filmi IAS officers.
Rams and Sunu Lakshmi are quite natural. They show the pain of parents remarkably. The villagers are as good as the side players in Bala's movies. Ghibran's two songs fit the bill. The BGM is apt. Om Prakash's cinematography captures the reality as it is.

Bottomline: 'Karthavyam' tells the story of a rescue operation in a thrilling and emotional fashion. Realistic scenes, simple but effective dialogues, the suspense factor are its mainstays. The good performances help it further. Nayanathara is the backbone. The director has made it with honesty.

Reviewed by: 
Vishwanath V