There are times in life when you have to let your biases out into the open, and face life like a man. So here goes - this reviewer is a big fan of Venkatesh, and counts Gharshana
amongst his favorite Telugu films.
With that out of the way, let's get to the crux. Raghavan should really have had Venkatesh in it. Or at least someone close. Which essentially means Venkatesh.
With no disrespect to a man popularly considered a legendary actor, Kamal Hasan is perhaps not the man for the role of Raghavan. He brings no energy and no animation to the role of a high-performing, go-getting police inspector, choosing instead to be his usual subtle, understated portrayer.
Indeed, the big liability to another movie that would have been in the same league as Gharshana (okay, so Gharshana was no monster hit, but should
have been), is its lead character. Kamal Hasan seems to have one uniform expression all through the film, and when he says "We'll get him," you are not really dying to pump your fist into the air and line yourself up behind him, jaws clenched.
Okay, even if you are, it's mostly because of the movie itself.
Raghavan is a good movie. The man who made Gharshana churns out another episode in the life of a police officer, and, even without counting the fact that his last attempt had you scrounging for more, once again has you riveted with the cinematic equivalent of a late night in solitude with a page-turner.
When the college-going daughter of Anandraj (Prakash Raj), the DCP of Vizag, is kidnapped and her thumb found hanging to his door, he calls in old protégé and DCP Crime Hyderabad, Raghavan (Kamal Hasan), a feared officer famous for his ability to smell clues. He quickly finds out what's happened to the girl - she's been brutally raped and buried somewhere on the outskirts. However, the case reaches a dead-end there.
6 months later, Anandraj and his still-distraught wife sell everything they have and move to the US to get over the trauma. In a few days, Raghavan receives a call that they have been brutally murdered there. Raghavan's equation with Anandraj far transcends the professional boundary, and he travels to the US for vendetta. And what he unearths - literally - is chilling.
Raghavan is a movie marked by a gripping screenplay, slick editing, stirring background score and compelling cinematography. Did we mention gripping screenplay? There are few boring moments, and even the romance - Raghavan runs into Aradhana (Jyothika) in New York - feels rather out-of-place. Which is saying something, since Gautam is a master of romance too - arguably the best part of Gharshana, essentially an action-thriller, was the romance between Venkatesh and Asin.
However, the film takes an unexpected tack, and perhaps suffers because of that, when the killers are revealed right in the first half. It ceases to be a suspense thriller then and becomes a tale of the hunter and the hunted. The psychopathic villians however are all vim and brimstone, and you will probably find yourself trying to put yourself in their minds, just to figure out their makeup.
Indeed, characterization is a strong part of the film - all silhouttes morph quickly into flesh-and-blood, and with high definition. Except, again, that of Raghavan. Perhaps it is that Raghavan works alone. Perhaps it is that he plays more of a self-assured detective than a leader. Perhaps it is that Kamal Hasan is not best suited to action roles that require more animation than understatement.
The music by Harris Jairaj is not as likely to set the charts on fire as you'd expect. Plus, this is a dubbed film (it was Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu in Tamil), and that has its own compromises.
Jyothika is quite expressive in a brief role, as is Kamalinee Mukherjee. Salim Baig and especially Daniel Balaji as the psychopaths are extremely evocative. Kamal Hasan can evoke mixed responses - you can call it either an exceptionally controlled performance, or miscasting. Prakash Raj evokes sympathy and predictably excels in a brief role.
Raghavan is certainly worth a watch if you can stand some gore and some sorry lip-sync, and is perhaps the best movie in Telugu at this time as we write this.