It's not often that you see a hijack drama being played out on Telugu screens. It's even less often that you see an A-list Telugu star like Nagarjuna associating himself so closely with offbeat cinema of any kind (Allu Arjun in Vedam
, and Venkatesh in Eenadu
being the last such instance). Either way, Gaganam is a breakthrough as far as its intent is concerned.
The content is not exactly perfect - in fact, as the movie initially unfolds, you're nervous because things look like they'll fall apart any moment. That, however, doesn't stop your nods of appreciation - largely because things never really do fall apart; they just seem
For example, while the film's terrorists insanely scream at the passengers to announce their hijack mission, threatening to reduce this flick to a loud chaotic farce, the day is saved because in the next scene, Prakash Raj is channeling his histrionic energy in a role that lends the film much of its personality and grace (he plays a suave IAS officer caught in the midst of frustrating politico-civil pressures).
It's a rather uncomplicated plot, actually. A bunch of Pakistani terrorists hijacks a Chennai-Delhi flight, forcing an emergency landing at Tirupati. They want the release of a dangerous terrorist, and while the ordeal that the hostages (and the hostages' families) are going through is palpable to the whole nation, election-conscious politicians in Delhi pore over the emergency in endless fruitless meetings.
An NSG commando Ravi (Nagarjuna) stands by as IAS officers camped at the Tirupati airport puzzle over what to do next, and is rendered helpless for the most part. He barks at them about how insane an idea it is to even consider releasing a terrorist to catch whom several lives had been lost; but eventually, babudom overtakes sanity.
The makers took their story-telling quite seriously, and it shows. The hostages' trauma is well-conveyed without resorting to using the terrorists' violence as a prop. The action gets better in the second half of the flick, with the last few minutes gathering a lot of momentum.
And yes, Nagarjuna is an integral part of the Gaganam experience. Despite starring in a rather simple and, well, sedentary role, it's nice to see his star power being used in a film that has more dignity than gimmickry. Prakash Raj shines, too. Poonam Kaur doesn't have much to do, and Sri Lakshmi is quite good.
Then, while Gaganam is a rather absorbing watch, it has quite a few areas that seem in need of help. Though it was a good idea to have brought in little touches like the saintly Christian priest (and, as we mentioned, the Pakistani family), evidently for their emotional potential, they tend to fall flat in the face of poorly-written dialogues and bad timing.
Also, some interesting facets haven't been explored fully - including the whole news channel bit featuring Harshavardhan, that could have been a stirring commentary on TRP-obsessed journalists who don't give a crap about national security.
As a thriller, Gaganam could have been more taut and engaging. Still, for those who might just end up bored, Brahmanadam's appearance evokes sighs (actually, shrieks) of relief. His comic track dangerously veers on trivializing the sensitive drama on hand, but is a value-add to the film, no less. There's a fun spoof on superstars and commercial cinema as well, that draws quite a few chuckles.
The cinematography is classy, and the visuals well-made. And the soundtrack keeps in tune with the no-nonsense nature of the storytelling.
Uncluttered, brief (with a runtime of about 2 hours) and edgy - if that's all you'd like out of your Telugu movie this weekend, head for Gaganam.