G Ashok’s Bhaagamathie is another one of those LOUD, jump scares-filled, cliche horror movies you kinda hope people would stop making. And among the cliche nonsensical horror movies, this is quite frankly one of the worst in recent memory. Bhaagamathie is so NOT scary, that the hair at the back of your neck crawls back into your pores and takes a two-hour nap.
It’s the kind of trash where subtlety and proper character work are sacrificed for 257 jump scares accompanied by horror scores you can download of the copyright free section in the YouTube audio library — screeches, wails, you name it.
That is until everything flips on its head completely and you can’t help but smile.
Former IAS officer now convict, Sanchala (Anushka Shetty) is being taken in for interrogation by the CBI — they hope to uncover some deep dark secrets about her former politician boss, Minister Eshwar Prasad (Jayaram). But the interrogation isn’t a government sanctioned one and so Sanchala is transferred to a secret location. That secret location is, of course, the old, abandoned Bhaagamatie mansion.
The first two-thirds of this movie plays like a made in China version of Chandramukhi. We have a haunted mansion formerly owned by royalty. We have two groups of people, the comedians who’re scared shitless of ghosts, and the serious bunch who scoffs at the very idea of anything supernatural. There’s also a female lead who enters a room that she isn’t supposed to, uncovering giant sized portraits of a beautiful queen that used to live there. And then talks of possession, followed by talks of multiple personality disorder. It is beat for beat like Chandramukhi except not nearly as interesting.
Chandramukhi is entertaining from start to finish. It has interesting characters you care about, great comedic banter, intense moments of drama and an air of mystery that slowly creeps up on you. And of course, there’s also Jyothika, who delivers a performance so note-perfect, she steals the movie from Superstar Rajnikanth himself. She is electric!
Bhaagamathie, which now that I think about it, even sounds like Chandramukhi, is LOUD. Very loud. I know, the sound mixing in most Indian films are bad, to begin with. Their motto seems to be ‘the louder the better.’ But here, it is outright criminal. All you can do is sit back and endure your ears getting raped over and over and over again. While I was watching the movie, I heard a thud in the audience. I think that was the sound of an audiophile dropping dead.
The opening credits read story-screenplay-direction by G Ashok. I can’t help but wonder how long it took him to scribe this, seeing as a large chunk of the film is just Anushka wailing on top of her lungs. Anushka is believable as Bhaagamathie, but that has more to do with her presence than her performance. Unlike Jyothika, Anushka’s doesn’t show any range here. As Sanchala, she screams in fear, when she’s Bhaagamathie, it’s screams of anger. This isn’t her fault, but the writing and directing. Anushka, who has ample charisma, makes this character work to a degree.
Bhaagamathie would have been a terrible film, had it not been for the twist that happens towards the end of the movie. A twist that makes you realise that there is an interesting story being told here. But alas, that would be venturing into spoiler territory. For those who do not wish to read further, I can tell you this much: These twists and turns don’t make the movie great, or good, but they do make it much more entertaining. But despite the interesting story, the screenplay does not improve one bit.
From this point on, there will be spoilers.
Not only is Bhaagamathie a Chandramukhi ripoff, it also heavily copies the ending of Bryan Singer’s modern day classic, The Usual Suspects. Some would argue that it’s ‘inspired by’, understandably so. To me, it’s nothing but a cheap knockoff. But heck, it’s a cheap knockoff that is fun.
Sanchala is admitted to a mental hospital for multiple personality disorder. Minister Eshwar Prasad visits her there. At first, he seems like a concerned father. But then, he pins her to the wall and says, “Are you lusting over me?” My initial thought was, F**k! This guy has been an asshole all along. Shit! Now he’s going to violate her. Only, we see Sanchala’s head slowly turn, and her look of sadness and confusion turns into a sly grin. Holy shit!
While this happens, we cut to the CBI officer who is jogging with her daughter. Something her daughter says makes everything click. She visits the Bhaagamthie mansion again and just like the officers do in The Usual Suspects, realises that Sanchala has been playing them all along. Sanchala was never possessed nor suffering from multiple personality disorder. She just made up random stories using information from words and books she found lying around the house.
It is a cool moment. Unfortunately, it is one that only lasts a couple of seconds. It would have been awesome, had Sanchala and Eshwar been the villains of this movie, with Sanchala murdering her activist husband and going to jail to run away with Eshwar, who has swindled millions of dollars. They cook up a plan to get Sanchala out of prison and then ride off into the sunset with all the money in the world.
Nope. G Ashok couldn’t resist throwing in another 40 different twists and turns that it stops being fun and turns into a jumbled up mess that makes less sense than a crackhead. As it turns out, Sanchala doubled crossed Eshwar, but not because she wants the money all for herself, but because she’s a noble person who has been plotting to expose his dark secrets to the world.
Her pretending to suffer from split personality disorder wasn’t to escape the clutches of the CBI officers nor to protect Eshwar, but to feed them the truth about the corrupt politician via cryptic speeches about Bhaagamathie. For whatever reason, the CBI officer is able to decode everything Sanchala previously said in a manner of seconds. Well, she did have the ‘stare at the ceiling while thinking’ look while the camera does a 360 around her. I guess that’s something. #SherlockWho?
This shit is so convoluted, that even the CBI officer asks her, “Why did you have to come up with something so elaborate? Why not just tell me during the interrogation?” Which makes sense, considering the entire investigation was about uncovering ESHWAR PRASAD’S SHADY BUSINESSES. To which Sanchala replies, “These days people would much rather listen to ghosts than humans.” Huh? What? Gosh, maybe you do belong in a mental asylum.
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