Sitting in a dark theatre with 3D glasses on, watching a film on the big screen that was mostly shot at night, in poorly-lit locations such as forests and houses in a village — it was a very dark experience watching Vikrant Rona. Anup Bhandari’s film, starring Kiccha Sudeep in the titular role, is a hot mess of genres ranging from action, adventure, and fantasy, and after watching it, you can add horror, dark comedy, and domestic drama to the list. Nonetheless, it barely does any justice.
Vikrant Rona is too many things rolled into one and will leave you perplexed for the majority of its runtime. The Kannada film, which has been dubbed into Hindi, has far too much going on at once, making it difficult to focus on any one character or incident for long.
Set in the fictional Kamarottu village (also the site of Bhandari’s debut film RangiTaranga; 2015), Vikrant Rona begins as corpses of young children hanging from tree branches are found and an inspector’s headless body is thrown into a well. There is a household, where all members have some back story to lead them into a new drama every single day.
Janardhan (Madhusudan Rao) lives with his cancer-stricken wife. Their estranged son Sanju (Nirup Bhandari) has unexpectedly returned from London after leaving the house years ago, but he is not permitted to enter. Janardhan’s younger brother and family have travelled from Mumbai to marry off Panna (Neetha Ashok), who eventually falls in love with Sanju. Then comes Vikrant Rona (Sudeep), who is trying to solve the mystery of the children’s murders, which are thought to have been carried out by a demon. Vikrant solves these mysteries by following a trail of unsolved clues left by his predecessor, all while dealing with a personal loss.
The first half of the film, up until the intermission, keeps you invested and builds on the suspense about the motive behind these killings and the mystery surrounding each character. However, the drop in both storyline and pace after intermission disappointed me greatly. It just loses the plot and nothing makes sense from here on out. Unneeded subplots are introduced. Characters and stories that are disjointed take centre stage. All for naught.
Vikrant Rona appears to be far too rushed at 147 minutes to justify its plethora of characters and convoluted plot. The subtle comedy we had been enjoying abruptly changes to gory horror, mostly with jump scares. I’d like to bring up the screechy and overly loud background score, which does nothing for the story.
The only thing (or two things) that remain constant in Vikrant Rona are the visual appeal and Sudeep’s unrivalled swagger. The cinematography department does an excellent job of capturing the landscapes, and the CGI is not overdone. And the hero of the film, with his swagger and charm, leaves a lasting impression. His mannerisms, antics, action, and even emotional scenes all contribute to the overall package. Sudeep’s scenes with his daughter Geetanjali Rona are adorable and add a new dimension to the otherwise flat plot. Unfortunately, all of this is undermined by a script that is poorly written and ineffectively executed. Even if Bhandari’s direction attempted to save the film, the story simply does not allow it.
Nirup Bhandari is a pleasant surprise, and his balanced performance in some scenes impresses. Neetha Ashok plays an important role, but she lacks a well-defined character arc and is given little screen time. Then there’s Jacqueline Fernandez as dancer Racquel D’Coasta, who has feelings for Vikrant but is only a cameo in the story.
It’s not wrong to call Vikrant Rona an ambitious film, but in most places, you get the sense that the team got too ambitious and, in an attempt to achieve and show too much to the audience, it ends up being a confusing tale with no focus. Watch it to enjoy Sudeep’s superstar persona and some spectacular action scenes.