We still remember the Nikhil from Happy Days
- the raw guy who falls in love with the lecturer, the guy who tells her and then struggles to recite an English poem for her, the guy who begs the tomboy to write his records. With his boy-next-door looks, he got on just fine in that movie. He then went a bit off-track trying to do typical mass roles, but reinvented himself with Karthikeya
. The supernatural thriller gave him a fresh lease of life, and since then he's been doing decent movies with slightly different story lines that have brought him a fair share of success.
However, something that we noticed in these last 2-3 movies is how the guy is looking so different - light-colored contacts, lighter complexion, a heavier layer of pancake looking extremely obvious in close-up shots... he almost looks unnatural. Someone needs to tell him that he just needs to look like himself since the roles he's playing are those of the boy-next-door variety and do not need him to look extra fair or different. Especially in movies with storylines about supernatural occurrences, the makeup might end up making him look like the ghost.
Coming to Ekkadiki Pothaavu Chinnavada (EPC), the movie is about Arjun (Nikhil), a young guy in Hyderabad. Nikhil is forced to go to Kerala along with a friend (Vennela Kishore) - the latter believes he's mentally disturbed and that the only cure for him is in the Mahishasura Mardini temple in Kerala. Arjun meets Amala (Hebah Patel) in Kerala and goes around Kerala with her. Right when the two start getting cozy, she disappears. Arjun comes back to Hyderabad and runs in to Amala again. However, she refuses to recognize him and tells him that her name is Nitya.
While Arjun is still trying to sort out his confusion, he gets a phone call from a girl (Nandita Swetha) who tells him that she's Amala and is on her way to meet him. So who is Amala really? Who does Arjun love and settle down with? EPC answers these questions and some more in an action-packed second half.
EPC begins in a wayward fashion wandering all over the place. The way events play out in the first half seems unnatural and does not draw you in. Even after the story shifts to Kerala, the entire premise of cosmic healers dressed like aboriginal tribes from Australia or New Zealand sounds too good to be true. The treatment given to Vennela Kishore and the explanation of his condition also seem unrelatable. It is only after the big reveal and the interval twist that the story gains momentum.
Nandita Swetha puts in a credible performance glaring her eyeballs out adding to the charm of the second half. Though the second half seems slightly stretched, there's ample entertainment on offer that keeps the script going. The director V I Anand takes his obsession with the aborigines a bit too far, bringing in boomerangs and all towards the end, and makes the entire scene a bit far-fetched, but otherwise weaves an entertaining tale.
Nikhil and Hebah Patel put in decent performances, too, but the real scene-stealer through the movie is Vennela Kishore. He has the audience in splits through most of the first half and for a couple of scenes in the second. A couple of other comedians also make their marks.
The film is technically sound with some great photography, passable music and a background score meant to amplify the effect of the scenes.
EPC is a horror comedy that manages to stay away from becoming "yet another" horror comedy. The comic scenes, lack of unnatural scare techniques and decent performances make it a decent one-time watch. In these times of scarcity when producers are scared to release movies, this could be your best bet.