Director: Chandra Mohan
Writer: Harish Shankar
Cast: Subbaraju, VJ Sunny, Prudhvi Raj, Divi Vadthya
Streaming On: Zee5
Into the final two parts of the eight-episode series ATM, you get to witness a careful police investigation fall apart as the protagonist’s clever antics are revealed. Despite successfully arresting the main robbers in an ATM van theft, the police struggle to trace the stolen ₹24 crores. It is here that the series gives us a glimpse of the heist drama that it set out to be.
Jagan (VJ Sunny) and his friends grow up in a slum in Hyderabad. Bereft of luxuries and sometimes necessities like education, this group of four decides to make it big by hook or crook. They engage in small-time robberies and spend the money lavishly for their selfish needs. But the local councillor Gajendra (Prudhvi) does not allow police to arrest them. This works in favour of the gang until they end up robbing diamonds worth ₹10 crores and lose it accidentally. Blackmailed by the gangster who sells diamonds, the gang has 10 days to repay ₹10 crores or get killed. And the ATM van robbery saga begins.
Up until this point, the series gives very little information about the main characters and wanders meaninglessly with repeated sequences that force across the point. In four of the eight episodes, you keep hearing Jagan’s backstory, about how he doesn’t want to become like his father, a lorry driver who is happy where he is.
Similarly, there are repetitions of dialogues and scenes that sometimes fall into place, but are redundant otherwise. For example, “Tea Kudu Daasu” is one dialogue repeated by police officer Hegde (Subbaraju) at least five times in each episode. But the dialogue blends in seamlessly at times and means different things at different points. For instance, the line sometimes suggests the line of hierarchy and the hatred that Daasu has towards Hegde, but it takes a comedic turn as the plot furthers. But there are scenes of a woman police officer who keeps asking her subordinates to massage her sore shoulders. The repetitiveness here begins to test your patience, and you start questioning the need for such a character when she is made to retire without making any progress in the cases and is removed from the plot after Hegde’s entry.
But in a series that is loud and spoon-feeds almost all details, the subtleness of using “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and its tune to convey the emotions of a young Jagan is a brownie point. Jagan first overhears the rhyme when it is taught in a private school. But he is unable to join the same school because of financial constraints. The same rhyme is used as the background score to emphasise Jagan’s lost dreams, once when he is forced to drop out of school and later when his life hits a low point. And Prashanth R Vihari’s music is also cleverly used to elevate scenes that otherwise appear ordinary. To the writer’s (Harish Shankar) credit, Subbaraju’s mass entry as Hegde, a brilliant police officer, doesn’t get wasted because even if Jagan and the gang are the better players, the series does not soft-pedal Hegde as the one who simply falls into the trap of a criminal.
The four friends successfully rob the ATM van before you even get to understand their plan. While this rips the series off any realistic sequences, the explanation that is revealed step by step during the investigation catches you off guard. This is also because Jagan, portrayed as a useless petty thief all along, has ingeniously planned every move. Loading up all the twists and details to reveal in the final two episodes is both a plus and minus point of the series because while you cannot stop watching those two episodes, the same cannot be said of the others as you struggle to finish the earlier bits. And does a good ending and a promising sequel matter if the series fails to engage you for the most part?