October 12, 2019 11:51:11 am
The protagonist of Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya shares a lot of similarities with the protagonist of Malayalam film CID Moosa (2003). They both are very particular about living up to the stereotypical image of a private detective. And importantly, these two films, in a way, parody the popular detective characters of cinema. But, unlike the Malayalam film, Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya is not a mindless entertainer. Even as this film shows its protagonist clowning around for the majority of the movie, it is a well-written suspense thriller that requires you to stay sharp. You slack, you lose.
I wondered why director Swaroop RSJ and his co-writer Naveen, who has played the titular role in the film, needed the cloak of comedy to make this crime thriller. It is probably because of the towering reputation of Naveen Polishetty as a comic.
Naveen became a hit on the internet for his appearances in ‘Honest Series’, a parody show, by All India Bakchod (AIB). The filmmakers would have thought that it’ll probably be difficult for the audience to approve Naveen essaying an out-and-out serious character, blurting out punch lines and taking down the bad guys. Hence, the comedy angle. Otherwise, humour in this “comedy-thriller” feels really short.
While the film fails on comedy, the thriller part has something to offer. The film opens with a phone call to a boy’s hostel in Bhopal that brings bad news for our hero, Sai Srinivasa Athreya (Naveen Polishetty). His mother has passed away and he has to leave for his home town, Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. Before he can manage to get to his native by road, his relatives bury his mother denying him an opportunity to say goodbye to her.
Three years later, we see him running his private detective agency out of a garage at a vegetable market in Nellore. He has an intern, Sneha (Shruti Sharma). He recommends her the biggest Hollywood hits from the mystery genre to improve her skills in solving crimes. It seems he has also taught himself how to deal with criminals by watching popular movies.
Athreya self-invites himself to a crime scene and gets a tight slap across the face by the real cops. He carries an empty Starbucks coffee cup to crime scenes because he must have seen detectives in Hollywood TV shows do it. He speaks about pop-culture and food-related topics inside the car but once he steps out, he means business. He has no time for small talk when he is at the crime scene. Probably, he must also watch Quentin Tarantino films.
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But, what is the point beyond Athreya’s buffoonery? What inspired him to become a private detective in a place, where people seemingly have no clue as to what is the meaning of a detective? Let’s call it destiny. Say, he gravitated towards this profession so that he could bring justice to the injustice happen with his mother.
Swaroop and Naveen’s screenplay cleverly unfolds the story. The first time we get the glimpse of what this film is really about is when Athreya’s uncle reveals the real cause for the sudden death of his mother: superstition. And the writer duo keeps you hooked by throwing in little surprises and devastating revelations.
Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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