Cinematic stories of lookalikes follow a few tried and tested tropes. Red, starring Ram Pothineni in a dual role and directed by Kishore Tirumala, uses some of these tropes until a point and then the game begins to shift, paving way for an investigative thriller.
- Cast: Ram Pothineni, Nivetha Pethuraj, Malvika Sharma, Amritha Aiyer
- Direction: Kishore Tirumala
- Music: Mani Sharma
Red is a remake of the 2019 Tamil film Thadam, which was written by Magizh Tirumeni based on a few true but implausible real-life incidents. We think we know how such stories and characterisations go — one is suave with a respectable work profile while the other is rugged and gambles away. When there’s a crime and both end up as suspects, we think we know who might have done it; but wait, it isn’t that simple.
Thadam was built on an interesting premise and Red adheres to it largely. But it also puts forth a slightly ‘mass’ version of the original, in an effort to pander to the image that Ram has after iSmart Shankar. An item number is thrown in, every emotion is emphasised and everything is over explained.
Ram handles the two roles effectively — civil engineer Siddharth and Aditya, who knows a thing or two about con jobs as well as matters of law! But the biggest dampener in both Thadam and Red is the time taken to establish the two characters, their respective romances and thereafter juxtapose the two men in a stiff whodunnit.
Sure, the romances show us what sort of men they are — for instance, Aditya draws boundaries of whom and when he will con and that Siddharth lives up to the trust placed in him. But the romances aren’t interesting enough to keep us invested in the proceedings. Both Malvika Sharma and Amritha Aiyer have nothing much to do, and try to make their parts seem convincing enough.
The film gathers momentum only at the pre-interval stage when police officers Nagendra Kumar (Sampath Raj) and Yamini (Nivetha Pethuraj) step in. The film’s high point is when Siddharth and Aditya clash in the police station and make it amply evident that there’s a past between them. Moments after this, someone underlines this point about them being at loggerheads owing to a past — as though viewers won’t interpret this much!
There are moments of intrigue as every step the cops take to unravel the mystery ends up at a dead end. What happens in the present is interlaced with the past stories of Siddharth and Aditya through a long-drawn childhood flashback involving Sonia Agarwal. This backstory doesn’t evoke empathy to the characters.
Mercifully there are no songs when the thriller mode is on. Nivetha makes her presence felt as the female cop who is desperate for answers. Had this character been better fleshed out, we might have been looking at a sharp thinking tough cop trying to cut through the clutter in front of her. Vennela Kishore and Satya appear in supportive parts and evoke a few sporadic laughs.
Red is intriguing in parts; it could have been a better thriller had it been more consistent and, of course, concise.