There are times when a film needs to be told in a non-linear mode. Basha, the predecessor to all our masala blockbusters, was one such movie where the passive first half was needed to give the post-interval flashback the kind of zing it carried. Director Surender Reddy especially employs the style beautifully, showing you an incident and then taking you back to how it happened, a few frames at a time.
And then there are certain movies which do best with a linear narration. Kanche, in this writer's opinion, is one of them. Unfortunately, director Krish seems to have thought otherwise.
Kanche starts off with Dupaati Haribabu (Varun Tej) reporting for duty in Italy in World War II. He is posted under commanding officer Eashwar Prasad (Niketan Dhir). Hardly a day later, even before the camp has settled fully, they are attacked by German troops - first by air and then by land. This leads to a big battle, and Haribabu's squad surrenders in the face of an incessant attack by the Germans. The German commander executes the remaining members of the Italian army, and takes Eashwar Prasad and the general as prisoners.
Haribabu and four others are left for dead, and see their commanders being whisked away. Haribabu and the remaining soldiers then decide to bring them back. The rest of the movie showcases the tumultuous past of Eashwar and Haribabu (who hail from the same village), Haribabu's love story with Princess Sita Devi (Pragnya Jaiswal), and the result of Haribabu's mission.
The major issue with Kanche is that the heavy duty scenes in the first half do not make much sense due to the fact that you are barely aware of any of the characters. The biggest battle sequence starts within ten minutes of the film taking off, and has absolutely no impact. Haribabu and Eashwar keep talking about how if one of them dies the other should carry the corpse back to the village, and how that will be good for the village - you have absolutely no context, and the dialogue makes just about as much sense as it did when you watched the trailer.
There are also attempts at humour but they barely pass muster. And the love story is too convenient - the leads worry when it is convenient for them and are happy when it is convenient. The villains raise caste issues when it suits them, cool down in a jiffy, and then flare up in another jiffy when the screenplay needs them to.
It is only in the second half of the second half that Kanche comes together. Once you realize that Krish is drawing parallels between the caste battle in the village and the holocaust, the conflicts in the film gain real meaning. However, Krish's attempts at including philosophy seem forced here, too - post-Gamyam
, it almost seems like Krish believes he has to preach.
The film is shot beautifully - the war sequences are shown quite well and the contrast with the village atmosphere is brought out nicely. The music is a definite minus - a few of the background songs are nice, but the regular duets are given an unnecessary classical touch and are difficult to sit through.
Acting-wise, Varun Tej does quite well. His eyes speak for themselves and he has a strong voice - both these should augur well for him. Pragnya Jaiswal, like we mentioned earlier, has one expression, and Nikitan Dheer is also single-tone. Gollapudi Maruti Rao appears on screen after a while, and it is nice to see the veteran do very well in his role.
Kanche is a different attempt and a brave one - what keep it afloat are the WW-II sequences, and what brings it down is the regular Telugu film village story. We'd still recommend watching this one - just ignore the routine stuff.