Director: Sri Krishna, Rama Sai
Cast: Raamz, Swetaa Varma, Jay Chandra
When a film opens with the brutal killing of a man, you can be certain about the shape of the narrative — it will vociferously revolve around the murder. The new Amazon Prime Video movie Pachchis takes this seemingly interesting route and introduces you to several characters via several busy scenes.
Pachchis is a crime thriller where the protagonist is a gambler. Though he traverses the underworld, he's not a mighty man. He's a lamb in the skin of a cheetah. And his biggest skill is perhaps his ability to cook up stories on the fly. Come to think of it, he'd make a decent politician. He has all the qualities of becoming one – he's a greedy fellow who's never happy with what he has. And he puts himself first in line if it involves being at the receiving end of money. He's not too sentimental about losing his friends, either.
While people who get into gambling to make a quick buck must be sharp in more ways than one, Abhiram (Raamz) is just not there yet. He terribly loses money every night. However, he doesn't let it bother him. He's confident about earning it back. For a man who borrows heavy sums to just squander it away, he's too cocky. Doesn't he know that karma will find a way to hit him where it hurts?
There are about half a dozen names that you'll keep hearing throughout the movie, such as Gangadhar, Basava Raju, Rakesh, and Mallikarjun. The actors playing these roles aren't that important, for they are mere blips on the radar. You should, nevertheless, keep in mind that Ravi Varma stars as a thug named RK. Whenever the camera rests on him, it gets mighty interesting. He issues warnings and punch lines in the same breath and it's a riot to watch Varma make the best use of his screen time.
Unfortunately, RK is also a character whose name you hear more often than you see him. Since the thriller spins around the identity of a particular person, by and large, it's peppered with cat-and-mouse chases. And although there are a handful of twists, they don't land with the full force of a cyclone. They, instead, attain the allure of light showers. This shouldn't be taken as a statement to mean that the directors, Sri Krishna and Rama Sai, don't bend over backwards to make the film appear intriguing. They try a lot, but their methods aren't exactly innovative.
If an indie motion picture doesn't pull you towards it entirely, there won't be the urge to know what happens next. Do you remember Kiran Kondamadugula's Gatham? It was surprisingly good, as it was anchored to a feverish screenplay which made you question the motives of the principal characters.
Why would you spend two hours watching guns going off randomly when you clearly know that you're going to have more fun with, say, Mindhunter or Mare of Easttown despite the longer runtime? It isn't fair to put indie projects on the same page as multimillion-dollar thrillers, but, at the end of the day, if your pleasure nerves aren't moved by the things you consume, you may feel a little ache in the heart. Pachchis wants to look fresh and yearns to be treated as an out of the box feature, which I sincerely admire, but it doesn't travel all the way to the end to achieve its goal.
Most of the people who are not on Abhiram's side go down without making him pay for the damages he has caused. It makes his journey smoother than necessary. And even though he doesn't fire from his shoulder, he receives all the benefits without having to work for it. It's true that he uses his brain to do the heavy-lifting, but he wins too easily.
A cop, who tries to connect the dots, doesn't seem to be too interested in digging into Abhiram's past. And another protagonist (portrayed by Swetaa Varma), who tails him to investigate the disappearance of her brother, doesn't knock down any of the bowling pins. She helps him when he's in danger and when he doesn't return the favor, she merely wonders helplessly. Why does she go soft on him deliberately in spite of knowing that he doesn't deserve any sympathy?
And if you observe, the entire movie looks like it's dipped in some kind of a grey solution. Maybe, the filmmakers are telling us that Pachchis is populated by people who reside in the area between black and white, holy and evil, etc. But if such visual tropes aren't supported by the characters that carry the movie on their backs, they're not going to look good.