'Vikrant Rona' review: A visual spectacle mutilated by threadbare plot
Kichcha Sudeep's labor of love Vikrant Rona arrived in theaters on Thursday. Helmed by Anup Bhandari, it also stars Nirup Bhandari and Neetha Ashok. The VFX-heavy celluloid spectacle has been released in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, and other languages. Vikrant Rona could have been the next big thing from South, but the phenomenal visual treat is sacrificed at the altar of a threadbare plot.
Sudeep, who plays the eponymous character in the film, is a competent, dexterous inspector who visits a village nestled in an eerie tropical rain forest. The spine-chilling, lightless location is a site of brutal killings of children, something all the villagers chalk up to one word: supernatural. Rona, thus, launches his probe in this fear-stricken community, where secretive seems to be everyone's middle name.
The stupefying cinematography elevates the film, builds atmospheric tension, and complements the narrative, with the despondent weather doubling up as a character. There is hardly any sunshine, which syncs with the film's mood. Vikrant Rona also brims with jumpscares that catch you off guard instantaneously! The first scene, particularly, lays the foundation for the suspense that the narrative architects over the next two hours.
Sudeep's entry is as heroic as filmi heroes' introductory scenes go, embellished with familiar devices such as him crushing his nemesis single-handedly while a thunderous (literally) background solidifies his unmistakable panache. Vikrant Rona also seems to have discernible shades of multiple cinematic projects here: Tumbbad, SS Rajamouli's work, KGF, and, though only slightly, Akira Kurosawa's Dreams. Fortunately, they work in the film's favor.
As opposed to films that only underscore the protagonist's larger-than-life gallantry, Vikrant Rona lends a humane layer to its hero that upgrades his personality and provides context to his actions. This makes him believable, despite being set in a world far too removed from ours.
The first half drags on forever; too many characters and backstories are shoved in our face, to the extent that you may run out of breath trying to keep up! It's bugged by an unnecessary romance that had no business being included in the final draft. Time is of the utmost essence in thrillers but Vikrant Rona loses much of it by pre-intermission.
Vikrant Rona has prodigious VFX scenes in rapid succession, and watching them in 3D viewing is no less than a treat. However, this spectacle is blemished down by a threadbare plot that runs out of fuel before it can land. The middling execution snatches away its gravitas, as Vikrant Rona meanders through different genres (fantasy, magical realism, horror-thriller, whodunnit), and eventually sticks to none.
Another major problem with Vikrant Rona is its comic relief in the form of a Muslim taxi driver who "has reproduced a cricket team of his own." "Juvenile humor," at best, teeters on the edge of being offensive, stereotypical, and even bigoted.
Sudeep's Captain Hook/Captain Jack Sparrow-esque character is Vikrant Rona's saving grace and he shoulders each frame with magnetic chutzpah, baritone voice, and his ability to get into the character's skin. Watch out for his scenes with his daughter! As is the case with films that focus all spotlight on the protagonist, other characters only populate the background and mostly exist to deify Rona.
Other than its incredible special effects, Vikrant Rona had a palpable requirement of a solid emotional standing to rest on. It's stitched into the narrative far too late, making it difficult to stay invested. Unlike the fantastical world of say, Baahubali, Vikrant Rona doesn't grow on you, and you walk out of the theater underwhelmed with a stifling sense of simply nothing. Verdict: 2.5/5.