‘Ugram’ movie review: Allari Naresh’s action sequences cannot save this collapsing thriller

Allari Naresh in a still from ‘Ugram’

Allari Naresh in a still from ‘Ugram’

After taking on police brutality in the 2021 crime thriller Naandhi,director Vijay Kanakamedala teams up with Allari Naresh yet again, and turns critique on its head by presenting the audience with the character of K. Shivakumar (Allari Naresh), a Circle Inspector who has four murders to his name and dishes out custodial torture liberally in his quest for ‘justice’.  

Very early in the film, we are forced to believe that Shivakumar is an upright cop after he busts an illegal drug smuggling business and refuses to give into the jaws of corruption.

Ugram (Telugu)

Director: Vijay Kanakamedala

Cast: Allari Naresh, Mirnaa Menon, Indraja, Sharath Lohithaswa, Shatru

Runtime: 122 minutes

Storyline: Tragedy strikes a dutiful cop when his wife and daughter go missing and he is prompted to solve the case

However, the ‘sincere’ cop also has his share of romance to muddy the chaotic thriller; Aparna (Mirnaa Menon), the daughter of a rogue politician gives in to marry Shivakumar after he stalks her for months and the director seems comfortable in passing it off as love. Soon enough, the audience is given a lesson in respecting women by Shivakumar himself after he rescues girls living in a gurukul from the clutches of men high on marijuana. While the director is clear that weed is only for the villains, he is unable to make up his mind about the treatment he dishes out to the women in his film, often building his hero into a character with a massive saviour complex.  

Later, tragedy strikes Shivakumar when his wife and daughter go missing and he is left to solve their case. The sincere cop has little regard for legal protocol and often takes pride in violating it while solving the case. 

The film is neatly divided into two distinct halves where the first half works as a typical cop drama with the protagonist addressing multiple social ills and teaching the criminals a lesson in morality by almost trying to kill them, while the second half is spent trying to find his missing wife and daughter. Post-interval though, the film feels like a drag and the clues the hero uses to solve the case, while actively contaminating them, come across as trivial and lazy to the audience. 

Kanakamedala uses too many plot points, haphazard narrative breaks, and unnecessary song and dance sequences which dilute the intensity of an already collapsing story. His choice to introduce “duplicate hijras” (according to him, these are men who cross-dress to commit crimes) to lewd sounds reinforces the harmful stereotypes associated with the community, and Shivakumar’s monologue on the struggles of the third gender in India comes across as mere lip service to avoid backlash from the audience.

The one saving grace is Allari Naresh’s performance. He is sincere and agile in decently-choreographed action sequences and his body language as a livid cop translates well on-screen despite his average dialogue delivery.

The audience might start feeling relieved and start rooting in the climactic action sequence, as was the case in my theatre — not out of adoration for the hero — but at the thought that we were close to the credits rolling across the screen. 

Ugram is currently running in theatres.

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