Satruvu (Kishore), Abhi (Naveen Chandra) and their dalam of 20 other naxalites are brought to a city prison. The grim looking group get down as the handheld camera moves around giving us only glimpses of the group members even though the actors included Tagubothu Ramesh, Dhanraj and other known faces. When the long free flowing shot finally had a cut I’ve realized that this film won’t be dull (technically) like the rest of ours.
The group surrendered in the hope of rehabilitation, but, are cheated and now face the fury of the naxal hating jailer (Harshavardhan). Soon one of them is encountered after being tortured for information. Satruvu is then blackmailed into accepting an offer to operate as a police supported mafia, to get to the criminals the police can’t get to.
One deal ends up with Abhi kidnapping Shruti (Piya Bajpai) to get to her dad (a broker of some sort) and he has her to look forward to in the otherwise all male company. The group seems to be enjoying their new role and the killing montages, all seems well, until a new police superintendent (Abhimanyu Singh) walks in and kills two guys from the group, and one of them is about to get married so…..you know the old trick of ending a character just when it seems happy, it was that one. The new superintendent and the tension around the killing of a local MLA drives the dalam back to the forests to escape slaughter.
By far, the real star of the show was the low key cinematography. The long takes and the charm of the camera movement was more than what any of the stiff actors had to offer. And especially with long takes it needed actors who can really make you believe in the world on screen. Starting with Naveen Chandra the actors ruined for me many beautiful compositions and pans. Even an actor as accomplished as Kishore couldn’t do much with the empty dialogue and clichéd characterizations.
Dalam is the classic example of film picking a central idea that needs much research and awareness and trying to mould it into a masala archetype.Such films run the danger of failing at both ends. Luckily for first time director Jeevan Reddy that didn’t happen, completely. The seriousness it deserves was not up to the mark, then again, technically it was polished enough to convince you otherwise.
Reviewed by Rohit