Film: “Abhimanyudu” (Telugu); Director: P.S Mithran; Starring: Vishal Krishna, Arjun, Samantha Ruth Prabhu; Rating: *** 1/2 (3 and a half stars)
Information theft is epidemic. Go anywhere. It follows you. It is happening in homes where husbands are spying on wives’ phone data. It is happening with your Adhaar Card where data is stolen by anyone who cares to.
A film, then, on the power of info-theft? Sounds good. And Vishal Krishan who has lately acquired a reputation for political activism, sinks into the role of Karthivaran, a former armyman, who is uncontrollably angered by corruption. When a bank loan goes horribly wrong (the plotting is so seamless that it goes fluently and fast from background information to in-your-face action), Karthivaran sets off a trail of animated pursuit that leads to an information-mafioso, Satyamoorthy (Arjun), a digital devil who wants to hack into every Indian’s life with the express purpose of controlling it. Every individual’s life, that is.
“Abhimanyudu” knocks the socks off the technology racket. Scarily, the film suggests there is nothing like privacy for any individual. We are all sitting ducks to violation of supposedly confidential performance.
The sharp-witted, straight-shooting screenplay is engrossing most of the way, creating pockets of havoc as Karthivaran takes on master-hacker Sathyamoorthy. For half the film, the director, who seems to have grown up reading internet stories of cyber-hacking, ensures that the hero and the antagonist don’t come face-to-face. The buildup to their imminent confrontation is deftly projected into a series of engrossing episodes, each suggesting a link between privileged information and its violation.
The presentation is smooth but the jagged edges in the inter-relations – for instance, the troubled relationship between the hero and his financially troubled father – are not attempted to be blunted for the sake of a smooth ride. We are often subjected to uncomfortable interrogation on the way on why we randomly and liberally part with private information.
Preserving the pontifications at a minimum, the narrative moves quickly to action-packed second-half where the Hero and The Hacker clash in body and intellect.
Vishal Krishna and Arjun make formidable adversaries. Their confirmation is agile and adrenaline-charged, bringing to the screen a kind of compelling kinetic combustion rare to our cinema. Indeed, Vishal has shaped into one of the finest actors in Tamil/Telugu cinema, willing to take risks without desirous of being patted on the back all time.
“Abhimanyudu” is a big leap forward for Vishal. He is so much at home in the environment of cyber tension that he carries us with his misgivings in waves of angry outburst vented at the perversity that underlines all online invasion.
This is a film that crosses confidently from its specialized theme to a universal condemnation of the abuse of the right to information. Must watch.