Locked Satyadev Kancharana

Writer, Director:  Pradeep Deva Kumar
Producer: KS Madhubala, H Shanmuga Raja
Cast: Satyadev Kancharana, Samyukta, Sri Lakshmi, Aberaam Varma, Keshav Deepak, Bindu Chandramouli, Vasu Inturi, John Kottoly and Rishikanth
Streaming Platform: Aha

There’s a philosophical question buried under the onslaught of visuals, sounds, and humans in Locked: If we are doing something deeply immoral, in order for a deeply moral thing to take place, is it justified? In the absence of the immoral act (say, murder) , the moral act (say, saving someone’s life) cannot take place. For the moral act to take place, the immoral act must precede it. In both cases we end up in a world where the zero-sum is the same. So what then do we pursue?

But philosophy is un-cinematic, and so must have something of visual heft to bring it to the fore. In Locked, that doesn’t happen, for it is unusually shallow in its treatment. At one point, one of the characters screams “I am the most ethical person there is” before going on to chop someone’s head off. There’s philosophical heft underlying this, but the layer of unintended comedy is too thick to pierce through to stab at the profound. 

The story is about three strands intersecting in one house on one rainy night. One strand is the genius neurosurgeon Dr. Anand (the inoffensive and charming, Satyadev Kancharana) who lives by himself- the Bajirao of surgery, having never lost a single patient to even the most complicated diagnosis. Another, is his anesthesiologist, Misbah, whose doubting wife is pushing him towards suicide. Another, are a threesome, including an old shrewd woman, who are trying to loot the doctor’s house by pretending to need help. 

Look at the lighting, dingy, infested with grime and foreshadowing.

The show starts with a masked man who abducts a homeless man and tries to perform surgeries on him. Have you connected the dots yet? (We find out who the murderer is mid-way through the show. Thereon, it just becomes about how the rest are going to save themselves. This, as you can guess, tires easily.) 

Each episode begins with an origin story of the various strands before it morphs into what is happening in the present day. It’s a good device, and the run time is adequate, in a time where a dozen hour-long episodes are the norm. (Locked is 7 episodes, 25 minutes each)

The first episode is about murder- you set up the larger crime. The next episode is about theft- the smaller crime, which looks comical and cute in comparison to the bone-crunching pursuit of death. (The varying shades of the unethical) Both crimes are given a background, no one just wants to steal, or murder for no reason, but the context of theft is so much more convincing. Or perhaps, theft is just easier to rationalize than murder.

Locked Review: Satyadev Kancharana Charms In An Otherwise Charm-Less Thriller, Film Companion
Look at the beautiful typography, which is vertical instead of horizontal, like the story, which deepens more than it moves forward.

The acting is surprisingly adequate (I say surprisingly because the previous Telugu attempts at web-series in Zee5 have just been downright insufferable.) but it is hard to power through this show as it draws to a close. The situations become bizarre, the explanations threadbare, the dialogues facetious, and the lighting grimmer. There’s an Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind twist at the end that really doesn’t work. No one feels or gets vindicated, and the catharsis of violence is never reached. This brings me to a great point where violence without much cinematic purpose just becomes a mode of entertainment- let’s show the man cutting open the brain, let’s make the sound of the bones being sawed off crunchier and louder… it is blood porn. It is pointless. And certainly, exhausting.

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