U-Turn Movie Review

A focused, heroine-oriented mystery that’s mostly engaging
U-Turn Movie Review

Director: Pawan Kumar

Cast: Samantha Akkineni, Rahul Ravindran, Bhoomika Chawla

Pawan Kumar's U Turn is a remake of his Kannada PSA-disguised-as-a-horror movie, and it contains many… U-turns. Let's begin with the ostensible leading man, crime reporter Aditya (Rahul Ravindran). He has a thing for Rachana (Samantha), the intern at his office. But she's the one who asks if he wants to have a cup of coffee. This is Rachana's movie. Aditya is the arm candy, the "love interest," reduced to wondering why she is not picking up his calls. When Rachana becomes the damsel in distress — long story, which we'll get into in a bit — you think Aditya's crime-reporting skills will save her. But then, he ends up in trouble, a dude in distress. She sets out to save him. This gender twist is a smart little U-turn.

Now for the long story, which begins in an auto. This scene between Rachana and her mother exists to establish that the mother is leaving on a trip, and Rachana will be alone for the rest of the film – and Pawan Kumar could have achieved this by simply having the mother wave goodbye as Rachana closed the door. But this autoride slyly introduces the road as a major character, and it gives the characters the opportunity to talk, and through this talk, we learn about Rachana, her family (there's a brother with visa problems), her mother's exasperation with her unmarried status (which lets us know she's single and available), her impulsive boldness (which makes her propose to the auto driver, and explains at least a few future actions), her determined and independent nature (which will explain, later, why she invites danger home)… And eventually, we will see that this mother-daughter scene  forms a loose parallel with scenes of another mother and daughter on the road. Pawan Kumar packs so much into this short stretch, it feels like the screenwriter's equivalent of the four-minute mile.

U Turn is a fair-enough outing (it may play better for those who haven't seen the original). But the intensity in the build-up isn't matched by the corny conclusion

But something feels off. The performances are fine, but the pacing always seems a beat or two behind. This gives the talky portions of the film an amateur-theatre vibe — though, thankfully, things get better once people start dying and Rachana is hauled to the police station. The cops (Adhi plays sub-inspector Nayak) want to know why she was hanging around the house of a murdered man — Rachana wants to know, too. What has all this got to do with the illegal U-turn motorists take on a busy road in Chennai? And what's with the U itself, the shape? The U in an "I Love U" text message. The U that the camera does at the beginning, first showing us an inverted  shot of a road (the sky is at the bottom half of the screen) and then righting itself.

U Turn is a fair-enough outing (it may play better for those who haven't seen the original). But the intensity in the build-up isn't matched by the corny conclusion, which — as I wrote in my review of the Kannada movie– feels like something Mahesh Bhatt would have written for an Emraan Hashmi horror franchise. For now, though, let's celebrate this time in Tamil cinema. After two Nayanthara-led hits in Kolamavu Kokila (crime / thriller / black comedy) and Imaikka Nodigal (serial-killer thriller) — we have another heroine-led film in a genre that's usually male-dominated, and where the protagonist could just as easily have been written as male. Three such films is not a pattern, merely coincidence. But here's hoping that this coincidence turns into a trend.

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