Language is caressed to orgasmic levels, characters are layered to enigmatic levels, conflicts are built to upsetting levels, and performances are rendered to awe-inspiring levels. Overall, Prasthanam is that fortuitous work-out session your grey cells so badly needed at the cinemas. It is dramatic, eloquent and rousing, and the fact that is so without a big budget backing it is both inspiring and heart-breaking.
The story is set in Vijayawada. Lokanatham (Saikumar) obliges to marry the widow Savitri (Pavitra Lokesh) of his boss (to whom he was a loyal aide), the local leader of Gannavaram, after he is slain by an adversary. Savitri's son Mitra unconditionally accepts him as his father, but the daughter doesn't. Soon, Lokanatham also fathers a son Chinna with Savitri, who Mitra grows up adoring.
Now, Lokanatham is the no-nonsense, unruffled and principled MLA of the constituency, and the grown-up Mitra (Sharwanand), a faithful man Friday who takes after his step-father in emotional make-up. While the former has aged and is more of a mastermind, the latter is composed yet dynamic and gets his hands dirty. Rival leaders and shady businessmen are thus dealt with using a potent mixture of cunning, force and strategy.
Meanwhile, Lokanatham's own son Chinna (Sandeep Kishan), who is seething with resentment at the pride of place his step-brother is getting in the family and in the eyes of the public. Fueling this cancerous bitterness are Chinna's own extra-curricular activities - goondaism and drugs - that further cause his father to treat him with harsh contempt. Chinna's soreness multiplies when Lokanatham declares Mitra the chief of the youth wing of his party.
Soon, Chinna gets convicted in a rape-and-murder case, and that's just the beginning of the complex cleaving of the family's dynamics. Loyalties expose themselves and the lust for power overpowers familial ties.
Prasthanam is primarily a drama-cum-thriller, and a meticulously scripted one at that. Deva Katta etches all his characters using the right measure of reality and melodrama, and hardly any of them seems fuzzy or even caricaturish.
More fascinatingly, he gets them to dish out some of the finest dialogues heard in recent times. The result is a torrent of impressive, almost lyrical, lines - of political satire, philosophy, codes of honour, relationships, the works.
Where Prasthanam is at fault is in the way it overdoes the complexity bit. There's a more-than-forceful attempt to pile up too much story-wise, to a rather exasperating effect. The pace suffers, especially at a point where a few quick relevant sequences could have wound up the job. And it's sometimes challenging to follow the progression of a few of the characters - especially that of Lokanatham.
That said, the whole film is executed with supreme brilliance, thanks in sizeable part to the performances. Saikumar, who initially seems too young for the role, grows on you within minutes, and he's a powerhouse of emotion. Sharwanand looks surprisingly comfortable in a role that is easily one that audiences can identify with the most.
Then, there's Jeeva with an impeccable Seema accent, Jayaprakash Reddy as bait for wickedly comic political lampooning, and Surekha Vani with possibly the meatiest role she has bagged so far. Sandeep Kishen as Chinna does a fine job as well.
The few songs scattered across have some innovative sound used in them, and are interesting to listen to. The background score is gripping, and helps the flick along. The camera work is inventive and powerful, but the quality of the ambience everywhere betrays a less-than-formidable budget.
On the whole, if you like your cinema with more rhetoric and less make-up, Prasthanam might be a good bet.