Mario, Maggie, Kalyan and Bhadram are a group of friends who own a gaming startup, having just launched one of their most-high profile games in the market. The game registers record downloads overnight, but their joy is shortlived when they realise a bug has surfaced in its higher levels, all thanks to Kalyan’s negligence. Kalyan, meanwhile, is on the cusp of marriage, set to tie the knot with Pushkala, the daughter of Kurnool’s dreaded factionist Bhooma Reddy. All hell breaks loose when Mario and his friends enter Kurnool to meet Kalyan and get him to solve the glitches within the game. They’re in for a wild, wacky ride ahead.
Prasanth Varma is among the rare breed of filmmakers in Telugu cinema who place a strong emphasis on the storytelling, execution of the film as much as its plot. He’s consistently pushed the envelope while staying within the mainstream format, subverting clichés quite smartly – making space for novelty in familiar backdrops. Both his earlier films, Kalki and Awe, have been genre-benders in their own right that made for visually enriching experiences.
Zombie Reddy sees the director taking a deep-dive into the masala terrain where he milks the tropes of a factionist film amid the backdrop of a COVID-19 vaccine rollout and a zombie attack superbly. It’s as if zombies are telling you through the film, ‘If Corona is bad, I’m your dad’. This is easily Prasanth’s most entertaining film in his career and one that serves as a perfect showcase of his cinematic skill and imaginative screen-writing.
The film settles for a rather convenient ending with a mythological bent, but there are enough bursts of humour, decent twists and innovatively mounted action sequences to make up for its follies. The introduction sequence of Mario, the protagonist named after the famous computer game, is one such example where he roams through the streets as if he were the kid in that game.
There are many fun elements even within the zombie attack – like how the bride turns a zombie on her first night, another grandma-turned-zombie is made to do cardio in the middle of usurping her prey. The visual motifs in the film deserve a special mention. Be it Anandhi in the garb of a goddess holding a trisoolam, Teja Sajja turning a saviour in a human-ly avatar of Hanuman, or a Draupadi turning into a zombie in the middle of the stage play and even the suggestive use of animals, birds and even reptiles to represent a character’s situation, there’s immense effort to elevate the impact of a sequence.
The plot surrounding an untested COVID-19 vaccine that transforms humans into zombies is bizarre, but the director uses this absurdity to his advantage through the dark humour. The film is visualised like a video game where the protagonist is holding the joystick. Despite the factionist backdrop, violence is never glorified and the subsequent transformation of vengeful characters in the middle of a crisis is ably justified. Zombie Reddy is a fine marriage of experimental and commercial cinema.
Teja Sajja, in his first film as a male lead, does a fine job of shouldering the plot with confidence, but for the fact that his character of a game designer could have come with more nuance. His dialogue delivery is sharp and he’s composed in his body language. Anandhi is equally impressive as the firebrand Rayalaseema girl and gets adequate screen space to prove her worth as a performer.
Veteran actor Annapurna is a delight to watch, especially during her verbal duels with Getup Srinu. Theatre actor Vinay Verma brings a lot of dignity and authority to the portrayal of an otherwise regular role of a bloodthirsty man from Rayalaseema. The likes of Prudhvi Raj, RJ Hemant, Mahesh Vitta, Raghu Karumanchi and Kireeti make for a solid supporting cast who deliver the bulk of the laughs. Daksha Nagarkar doesn’t have much to do in an insipidly written role.
Music and other departments:
Mark K Robin continues his wonderful form as a composer – he respects silence as much as sound and he adds so much sheen and weight to the action and emotional sequences through the film. Cinematographer Anith is the film’s unsung hero who brings minimalism and depth to the storytelling with slick visuals. Tajuddin Syed shows immense promise as a writer and he has a natural flair for clean humour. The CG/VFX is good for the most part but occasionally tacky.
- Superb storytelling
- Unique premise
- Entertaining and has strong performances
- The over-simplistic ending
- A sluggish second hour
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur