It is commonly said that Basha was a watershed movie for the South Indian film industry. Post Rajnikanth's monster hit, a plethora of films starring big heroes had but one plot - a hero living in a far-away city as a common man, an interval crescendo hinting at a flashback, said flashback showing the hero as a demi-god forced to leave his native place, and a climax with the hero returning to settle scores.
Telugu films have a second era: the Srinu Vytla - Kona Venkat - Gopi Mohan phase. These movies all have a uniform theme - the hero falling in love with the sister/daughter of a notorious don in the first half, and joining the don's gang and making fools of everyone there before the big climax fight.
In this era, Karthikeya dares to tackle a different plot, and brownie points to the movie for that. Is it as suspenseful as the trailer promised? Well, that's a different story.
Karthikeya is about Karthik (Nikhil Siddharth), a medical student. Karthik, after the mandatory introduction song and mandatory-first-fight-with-heroine-before-falling-in-love scenes, travels to a place called Subramanyapuram along with his friends for a medical camp. Here, he comes across a temple that has been closed for a year. Merely broaching the topic of the temple results in instant death for several people.
Karthik, after being attacked by a snake, decides to solve the mystery of the temple. How he does that while winning his lady love Valli (Swati), who is from the same village, forms the rest of the story.
First-time director Chandoo Modeti gets his basics right. The narrative techniques, including the illustrations used to depict the history of the temple, are spot on, and convey a complex story in the simplest form. There are several elements thrown into the tale to make you ponder over the mystery. The screenplay, though, could have been tighter. The film, even with a relatively short running time of 124 minutes, feels a tad long.
The actors get into the skin of the characters, and do a good job. Nikhil and Swati perform their parts with the required gusto, and the supporting characters including Tanikella Bharani and Rao Ramesh bring the necessary gravitas to their roles, too.
The technical values pass muster, but definitely could've been better with a bigger budget. The music is of the time-pass variety.
The only grouse you're likely to have against Karthikeya is the final unraveling of the mystery. After clue after clue pointing to a seriously monstrous mushroom cloud at the denouement, the film's ending appears rather underwhelming. It also leaves the age-old questions of Nature vs Science (if you are an atheist) and God vs Man (if you are a theist) intact, but it is unlikely that you will be discussing those when you leave the theatre.