An appetite that has been whetted to an optimum level and then left unsatisfied makes for a cranky viewer. And watching Avunu can leave you very cranky indeed.
Not that it is a bad movie. That's not what we mean at all. In fact, Avunu is that rare Telugu thriller that actually manages to do what thrillers are meant to, i. e. get your hindquarters to the edge of the seat, without sliding down to the meaningless mass of factory-outlet "scares" and the "shock" value of tomato ketchup-laden decapitated body parts.
Instead, it is subtlety - a commodity that is apparently in sporadic supply in the Telugu film industry - that Ravi Babu uses to take the viewers exactly where he wants them. And so you have an audience whose tension levels have been drawn tightly enough to be quivering like a high-pitched tuning fork. All of this is despite the fact that you'll find any number of "inspirations" to the movie ("The Shining", "Paranormal Activity", and even the hilariously non-scary "Hawa").
The story goes like this. Mohini (Poorna) and Harsha (Harshavardhan Rane) are newly-weds who've just moved to an isolated township in Hyderabad which has only three families living in the whole area. Sounds familiar, right? Another couple that lives there, with whom our turtledoves go on to get pretty tight, has a son who has started a new "game" of interacting with people he can't see, which his parents write off as a childhood phase.
Pretty soon the paranormal fun begins, with things going bump regardless of it being day or night. About a half-hour into the movie, the lecherous intents of our eeeeeevuuul spirit have been established, as he goes around playing peeping tom with the definitely peepable-at Mohini. The rest of the first half is filled with lots of spooky foreplay, metaphorically speaking, that leaves you pretty satisfied with what you've seen so far even though a few scenes do get rather repetitive.
Things speed up post interval. The tightly-knit plot, aided by symbolism-fortified cinematography, makes for a watch that provides chills and thrills without heading into cliché-land. And right when you're getting really really into it, everything just goes kaput with a brutally abrupt ending that saddens you just as much as it disappoints you.
We have a message for all those teachers who have brilliant students who don't quite manage to meet their potential. Dear teachers, we know exactly how you feel.
Avunu - with its surprising unpredictability, stellar cast, great screenplay, and a lack of lame song-and-dance sequences (for which we are extremely grateful) - had the potential to be a great movie. However, it has been let down by what we can only assume as being the writer's laziness towards the ending.
As far as the acting is concerned, Poorna almost entirely carries the movie on her dainty and capable shoulders as she works with her doe-like eyes and quivering lips to project every bit of her unease and fear onto the viewer. The little boy we mentioned earlier also needs watching out for. While all the men in the movie deal with their parts effectively, it is the women who really get to flex their thespic muscles.
There is so much about the film that works that the prematurely aborted ending really gets your goat. Also, it makes it really hard for you to figure out whether or not this is a good movie.
Go watch this one simply for the fun of watching a Telugu film that isn't built entirely around testosterone-y heroes. But also be prepared to cook up your own ending just so you won't die of frustration.