The makers of Anushka Shetty’s Bhaagamathie projected the film as a horror thriller but what director Ashok has given us is a formulaic masala entertainer with predictable twists and turns.
IAS officer Sanchala (Anushka) is in prison for murdering Shakti (Unni Mukundhan), a do-gooder in the society. Meanwhile, Central Government decides to tarnish the reputation of politician Eshwar Prasad (Jayaram), who has a clean image among the general public so they appoint a CBI officer Vaishnavi Reddy (Asha Sharath) to investigate Udhay Kumar’s long time secretary Sanchala. Cops move Sanchala from the prison to the widely believed Bhaagamathie ghost bungalow, where they experience paranormal activities.
BHAAGAMATHIE SYNOPSIS: To dig up some dirt on a minister who is Mr Clean, a CBI officer goes after his imprisoned personal secretary. They transfer her to a dilapidated palace, which is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a cruel queen, and things take an eerie turn.
BHAAGAMATHIE REVIEW: Bhaagamathie ticks all the boxes that have become mandatory for a horror thriller these days. Some of the elements — a haunted palace, a legend involving royalty and a tragedy, a mystery surrounding the unnatural occurrences (is it really a ghost or is it psychological?) — give it the vibe of Chandramukhi. Even the camera moves, where the camera peeps from behind a character or moves towards them at a pace that conveys the presence of something supernatural, are reminiscent of the tricks that were employed in that film. However, if the film feels derivative and somewhat predictable, it is also intentional — as we learn towards the end.
To take us there, director Ashok gives us a story that involves a bit of political intrigue and this is what makes Bhaagamathie a little different from other horror-thrillers. He gives us the story of Sanchala (Anushka), an IAS officer, who is in prison for murdering her fiance. The higher powers in the government decide to use her to dig up some dirt on Eshwar Prasad (Jayaram), a minister with a clean image who has been embarrassing them among the public. Enter CBI officer Vaishnavi Reddy (Asha Sharath), who gets Sanchala transferred from prison to a rundown palace believed to be haunted by the ghost of Bagamathi, a cruel queen. Soon, weird events begin to take place. Is Sanchala really possessed by the spirit of Bagamathi? Is she schizophrenic? Or, is she faking it all?
Bhaagamathie depends on the larger-than-life onscreen persona of Anushka, the one we have seen in films like Arundhati and Bahubali, and the actress delivers. While she gives a measured performance as the quietly assured Sanchala, who is caught in a political game, she dials it up to eleven to make us buy the ferociousness of Bagamathi, which captures the over-the-top tone of the film. However, some of the impact of her transformation gets lost because we see the actress saying her lines in Telugu (the film has been made as a Tamil-Telugu bilingual) in some shots.
Jayaram and Asha Sharath capture the different shades of their roles pretty well, though for actors of their calibre, this is not a stretch by any means. Technically, the film feels competent, and music director Thaman, especially, lifts the scenes with his suitably bombastic score.
There is a distinct Telugu masala flavour to the film, but that doesn’t put us off. And even if the machinations of the script, including the climactic twist(s), feel familiar, Ashok goes about these with an attitude that is gleefully over the top and this keeps the film engaging.