Aramm went on to become a critically and commercially successful venture in Tamil when it released last November across TN. Its Telugu version, Karthavyam, released today across the Telugu speaking states and I watched it with not more than a dozen people in the theater. Honestly, not many people know that this film is releasing today, if at all they do know that it exists. And that’s a real shame, because I really liked this film and I think, so did the handful of others who watched it with me.
I think this is one more reason why reviews and reviewers are important. If reviewers and critics could watch movies like Karthavyam and put their word out, more and more people would first know the existence of such movies, and if they are good, they will go watch them.
Anyway, Karthavyam is led by Nayanathara’s Madhuvarshini. She’s an honest and straightforward Collector whose primary responsibility is people and their welfare and she stops at nothing to do good to the masses. When she sets foot in a remote, parched village somewhere near Sriharikota, she gets entangled in an emergency situation involving a family of four. How she deals with this crisis – or helps people deal with it – and a couple of others on the side, and emerges a people’s leader, forms the story of Karthavyam.
Firstly, the writer-director Gopi Nainar does a brilliant job of setting the thriller in a village near Sriharikota. Without divulging much information, I would like to really appreciate the poetic touch here (you’ll know why when you watch the film).
*minor spoilers in the next few sentences*
This contrast between human capabilities in reaching for the stars, and reaching barely a hundred feet below the ground, is wonderfully brought out. The problem of drought in these areas also is very smartly used and it contributes to something which eventually becomes the reason why a major event in this film takes place. And the fact that this is a village so close to the sea is also used to explain some other things later in the film. So, within its scope, this is a well thought-out film.
The first half an hour of the film feels like it’s jerky, but it eventually evens out and overall, it’s pretty good and engaging. There are several light-hearted moments in the first half, thanks to the wonderful Suni Lakshmi and Ramachandran Durairaj. The second half is more emotional. As drama quotient of this film begins to spike, so does the edginess of it all. Not a moment is wasted. There is one, probably two, loose threads in the film (no closure), that could have been explained or done away with, even (given that a screen-time of 5 mins is dedicated to discussing about one of them).
The writing is clunky in the initial portions, likely intentionally, but is exceptionally good for the rest of the film. Apparently, Nayanathara had asked the director not to let her star-status and fan-following come in the way of the script. Well done, there! And it clearly shows. The film is devoid of star-worship. Even the leading lady’s character itself is not worshipped – on more than 2 occasions, her actions are questioned. But at the end of the day, this is a woman who’s hell bent on being a good human first. Nayanathara’s portrayal lends her character respect. She’s on point and totally in her elements here. Mr. Durairaj fits the bill as the father. It’s Sunu Lakshmi as Sumathi however, who is my personal favourite here. Lakshmi’s portrayal of an understanding, loving mother is just too good to turn the other way, and she’s equally terrific in the emotional scenes. This is a talent to watch out for! The kids, too, do their parts well.
A quick Wikipedia reading told me that the director did not assign a gender to the role of the Collector until Nayanathara showed interest in the project and agreed to be a part of it. It worked really well this way, because the character’s maternal instinct can possibly explain her resolve in the later portions of the film (although this is not explicitly stated/shown).
Overall, Karthavyam is a fine film with a relevant message. But that’s not the best of its achievements. The film raises several important questions very subtly and leaves the audience to ponder over them. Nicely done!
I’m going with 3.75 out of 5!
PS: All the images are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.