Dasara Review: Disgracefully shoddy and misguided

Dasara is a 2023 Indian Telugu-language period action drama film written and directed by debutant Srikanth Odela, starring Telugu actor Nani

Dasara Review: Disgracefully shoddy and misguided

Subhash K Jha

Nani is a very competent actor. But he is not an actor who can play a ruffian comfortably. He tries hard. With his tanned complexion (half the budget must have gone in buying bootpolish because as we know, all lower-caste characters in our movies have to be dark skinned) and flamboyant expressions of retro-ruggedness (the film is set in the 1980s in a village of alcoholics in Andhra Pradesh) Nani plays Dharani,a character from the same lineage as Allu Arjun in Pushpa The Rise, except for the fact that Allu Arjun’s shifts from rustic and aggressive to a one-man killing machine were interesting to watch.

Nani is painfully self conscious in his tribal avatar. His performance is so choked with sincerity you feel like telling him to take it easy. Dikshith Shetty who plays Nani’s chaddhi buddy Suri comes across as relatively relaxed. Keerthi Suresh who plays the third angle in this rough dread-neck triangle is incredibly hammy and loud. What a comedown for the actress who was so brilliant in Saani Kaayidham.

Only the Malayali actor Shine Tom Chacko makes some effort at nuance in a film steeped in barbaric caste and choler (anger) stereotypes. Chacko as Chinna Nambi has nothing to do except act mean with his dignified wife (Shamna Kasim) and lust after Vennela in strawberry fields(in a manner of speaking). To prove how perverse Chinna is,we are told he sniffs at Vanella’s saree (when she’s wearing them or on the clothes line, we don’t know) and thinks of her while making love to his wife.

Dirty boy! Speaking of which, everyone except Keerthy looks unwashed. Not surprising, since the men spend all the time warring and drinking. The village we see in Dasara is as anarchic as Mexico during drug season. Veerlapally is run by the alcohol mafia.When Dharani and Suri fight them, tragedy strikes in waves that are as familiar as the Maldives beaches.

There is nothing in Dasara that is even remotely original let alone attention-grabbing except for a cloistered chase through the village between the two heroes and the bad guys who are duly masked, and not because they fear Covid.

The climax at a Ram Navami festival with an effigy of Ravana being torched symbolically while Dharani and the villain fight it out, is denuded of all thrill and excitement. It all seems shamefully assembly line. Making it worse was the Hindi dubbing which is so uneven it makes the characters sound twice more dumb than they actually are.

The songs too have been translated wholesale with not a thought for rhyme or reason. I am sure the film’s intended energy is far more manifested in the original Telugu version. In Hindi, Dasara seems a poorly scripted and acted country-cousin to Pushpa The RiseDharani The Fall.

Sathyan Sooryan’s vigorous cinematography survives the brutal assault on the senses by other technicians who feel relentless motion can cover up for the lack of authentic emotions. Even a mass funeral sequence seems overly theatrical. Melodrama is a grave matter in Dasara.

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