If you have watched the recent Anushka disaster, Nishabdam then Gatham begins with the hint of a bad déjà vu. Thriller set in the US, bad acting by the American cast (Nishabdam even made Michael Madsen look awful) and a probability that USA has turned to Ubiquitous Spread of Andhraites with every second character speaking Telugu. But stay with the movie long enough and you will realize that Gatham wants to think all of that about it and then sucker punches you with its smart writing. If you sneer at the initial moments of the screen and snobbery gets you asking ‘why the hell are the characters behaving this way?’, you will be humbled later on at the realization that it is by design and everything is for a reason. No loose ends on the writing part, or most of it at least.
What works for Gatham is the sleight of hand in the script. It tempts you to look closer and find holes in its plot and then comes back to show the precision with which the holes were imprinted. So what looks and feels like a rerun of the cabin in the woods trope is actually a show that unfolds beyond the cabin and far from the woods. The cabin in the woods at the centre of the movie is the crafty deception. Once it picks pace, the screenplay is filled with twists that keep you engaged. This is essential for the movie since it helps you look over the below average production value and subpar acting. Gotham’s strongest suit is the written material and as the plot unravels you create a vivid imagery in your mind. Since the film making is amateur, chances are the movie in your head will end up looking richer than the on the screen.
The movie is held back in parts by the acting. The lead characters and the supporting American cast do not pass of as professional actors. Hence the onus is on the audience to look past this in view of the bigger picture. For a movie, that is expecting a big leap of faith, but writer and director Kiran has bet on it. On the acting front, Rakesh Galebhe playing Rishi and Bhargava Poludasu playing Arjun, get the bulk of screen time and well written character arcs. One can appreciate the effort put in by them but cannot stop wondering what these characters could have been in the hands of better actors.
Overall Gatham needs to be watched for the gripping screenplay and the twists and the wonderfully constructed deceit that starts with the quote at the beginning of the movie. Also, the subtle hat tip to Shutter island in a scene that will bring a smile to connoisseurs of ingenious homages in movies.
Captive of the 24 frames and admirer of the written word. If it is not on the silver screen or on the pages of a paperback, it might as well not exist.