Director: Sailesh Kolanu
Cast: Adivi Sesh, Vinni Mobstaz, Rao Ramesh
There is a chance that if you’re politically astute, you may be put off by the first few minutes of HIT: The 2nd Case (HIT 2). It opens with a woman cheating on her husband and then, falsely accusing him of marital rape. The protagonist is a police officer named KD (Adivi Sesh) who claims that most criminals are “bird-brained” and that most crimes can be solved within five minutes. He tells off the media at a crime scene for having the temerity to hold the police to account, dismisses a female officer for being “manipulative”, and while picking up his girlfriend from women’s welfare organisation meeting, he says “you say feminism and all that, but it is we who have to open doors and pay bills”. When he spots a photo of a girl with a dark-skinned man, he makes sure to comment on the man’s color. KD might stand for Krishna Dev, but you know why he’s really called that.
The most interesting thing about the first HIT (HIT: The 1st Case) was its tortured-by-the-past protagonist Vikram, played effectively by Vishwak Sen. After the first few minutes of KD in HIT 2, I assumed that by going bigger for the sequel, the filmmakers decided to introduce some of the old misogyny-as-masala tropes for wider appeal. Without spoiling the events of the film, let me assure you this is not really the case, that it is more subversive than it initially promises to be, and for most of its runtime, happens to be a riveting procedural that stacks tension and atmosphere like few other Telugu thrillers. It is a shame, then, that it shares the same central flaw that HIT had—that it comes apart somewhat at its denouement.
In well-constructed murder mysteries, the denouement always lands as an aha! moment because we realize that the clues have always pointed to the killer, but we have been prevented from arriving at the right conclusion because the story has hidden the connecting thread cleverly. Both HIT and HIT 2 are deeply interested in the forensic details of the crime, in providing an abundance of clues, some of which click together by the end, but they don’t play fair—HIT 2 keeps a crucial piece of information concerning the identity of the killer hidden (something that would have been revealed by a simple background check) only for it to surface as a surprise later. When it does, the face-off between the hero and the villain devolves into farce, which, given how well-crafted the lead up to that point was, seems like a different film.
But right up until that final stretch, HIT 2 is a terrific ride which paces its twists and revelations perfectly, and though I missed the rough edges of the protagonist from the first film, Adivi Sesh is immensely watchable as KD—there is a genuine arc to this character that goes from cocky chauvinist to vulnerable vigilante. Rao Ramesh, playing his superior officer, does the thing that Rao Ramesh usually does in the movies well. John Stewart Eduri’s background score is a standout, as well as the MM Srilekha-composed 'Urike Urike'. The humor in the film also works for the most part— especially a subplot that involves a pregnancy involving Geetha Bhascker as KD’s live-in girlfriend’s mother. There are hints to some of the unresolved questions from the first film, as well as some clever allusions to the caveats of real-life “encounter” killings. There is also a cameo in its final stretch that worked spectacularly on the audience in my theater.
Though I’m not convinced about the cinematic universe gimmick, there is a lot in the HIT films that warrants revisits for a sequel. My concern is that subsequent films will slowly, for commercial appeal, strip away the things that made the first film distinct—the commitment to the neo-noir aesthetic and the attention to detail. This film didn’t need a derogatory joke on someone’s complexion—it exists to massify the franchise. What these films need are better mysteries at their core. The cast, the atmosphere, the music, and the pacing of the screenplay are all in place for a solid trip. But if a whodunit is a drug, you need a solid denouement to take a hit.