You really, really need to love Anushka.
Nah, that's not propaganda we're peddling because of any newfound love for Anushka or such. We're just saying, to be able to be thoroughly entertained by Bhagmathie, you'd better be in love with Anushka.
G Ashok's trilingual (Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam - which explains why all those non-Telugu actors show up on screen) horror-thriller offers very little apart from its lead's loveliness. It isn't that he doesn't try. It isn't even that he fails. He just doesn't quite succeed.
Take that plot, for example. It's like those goofy gifts we wrapped as kids where the recipient peels a layer off to find another layer under it and then peels it off to find yet another and so on, and twenty layers and much amusement later, out comes a Mango Bite (ah, Mango Bite...!).
Only, with Bhagmathie's plot, about twenty layers and some tedium later, out comes the big reveal. And it has no bite.
As is the case with such peelsy plots, we can only give you the first couple of layers, which involve an honest minister (Jayaram), a case of stolen idols from ancient temples, and a Chief Minister who wants the honest minister out. So a CBI officer (Asha Sarath) is assigned to dig up dirt on the minister, in which process she decides to interrogate a jailed IAS officer (Anushka Shetty) in a place that's neither public nor private - a haunted palace of a queen called Bhagmathie.
Yes, the first couple of layers look interesting, which is why we sincerely sat through the film. And also because the scares are kinda nicely done. The producer spent money, and the director made sure it was spent well - the art direction, make-up, sound design, cinematography and such are all a certain degree of competent, which make you sit through the movie - only to slowly realize that the investment was probably not worth it.
Also because Bhagmathie actually tries to be a thriller and not a standard issue horror-comedy, the easy laughs don't come, and G Ashok hasn't (yet) got the craft to work a full-fledged thriller. There are still the few good laughs, few good moments and few good scares, and good as they might be, they are few.
We couldn't be particularly concerned about the generally decent but nothing-extraordinary performances, but we'd like to mention that Dhanraj can be an intense performer. Comedian or no, he has the gravity to hold a frame, and we wish he was given more to do - not just in this film but in general, too.
And no matter her loveliness, Anushka still is a few nautical miles behind Nayantara when it comes to shouldering films and having them work. The latter's recent solo outings like Dora
and Aramm (a Tamil film where she plays an IAS officer) are likeable whether or not you like Nayantara. Or maybe she's just choosing the sweet scripts. To like Bhagmathie, though, you'd better be in love with Anushka.