Katha's makers probably wanted to make a point when they inserted the quip about how the movie industry and "10th fail" generally go together. That piece of spunk aside, in an industry where "over-the-top" is the all-time favourite gimmick, Katha takes you aback because it's so bravely straightforward.
Marketed as a romantic thriller, the movie is almost naive in its uncomplicatedness. It's probably the budget, but it really has no devices - to either distract you or evoke uncomfortably strong emotions. It's a plain murder mystery, with no frills. So much so that we'd even recommend it as a family watch.
The plot is set in Araku, where a film unit comes to shoot. Krish (Arun Adith) is a director, and is penning the script for the film. He runs into Chitra (Genelia), a school teacher who has moved to Araku alone, and falls in love with her.
Chitra witnesses a murder in the valley, but her version of the story is rendered dubious when Krish comes to know she has a medical history of paranoia. How the mystery is solved and what Chitra's past is forms the rest of the film.
At the periphery, Katha touches upon the issue of how a mentally over-the-edge person gets mileage mostly in terms of pity or revulsion, and rarely in terms of empathy. It's easier for the rest of us to quickly dismiss his or her fears as irrational, and in some cases, for medical terminology to overtake the power of the human touch.
The movie's weakness is that nothing much happens until the last half an hour of the movie. It tries too much to build character and establish the background, and the result is a slow-moving first half.
Which is mostly why that last half an hour really works. Why else would a scene of someone sneezing in the dark and giving himself away to the killer bring on a theatre-full of full-throated groans?
This is Genelia's show all the way, and while her role is a blend of innocence and psychosis, she puts on a compellingly pleasant show that leans on the former. It's her best performance till date, and she's on the way to pick up an award or two.
However, the lead pair's romance is sanitized to a large extent, with the result that Genelia and Arun Adith look like school buddies and not much else. Still, he's pretty earnest, and delivers a rather honest performance.
Prakash Raj, as the police officer at Araku, is great as usual, though it's a role that could have had a bit more meat. And Raghu Babu, the only comic figure in the movie, is given some well-written jokes. For him, it's probably the only time he gets to go solo and meaningful both at once, and he's lapped it up eagerly.
The songs are a sizeable positive in Katha. Though there are few of them, they speak of a meticulous effort in composition. The music adds to the film's mood, lending more profundity than unwarranted tension and tears.
Genelia wears make-up, and that's likely the most luxury the visuals could afford. The visuals are on the lower-end of the spectrum, and the effort seems like a short-film festival entry sometimes. However, it's a decent job on the whole.
What Katha makes you do is want to turn the page, and that is why you should pick it up. Sometimes, simplicity is its own gimmick.