In a country where superstitions and unwavering faith continues to exist, there are plenty of people who take advantage of faith and religion for their own personal gains. Srinivas Ravindra tells the story of a fake Godman in Dwaraka, where he tries to show how easy it is for to dupe people using the name of God.
While the film is slightly over-the-top, there is plenty in it to keep the viewers interested and drive home the message. The film begins on a cliched note, when Sreenu (Vijay Devarakond), a con man, runs into Vasudha (Pooja Jhaveri) in a temple, while he’s trying to steal a deity. In typical filmy style, Sreenu stops to stare as Vasudha’s hair flies with the wind. There is a pause as he stares, while music plays in the background. Sreenu then kisses her to deflect attention from those chasing him.
It doesn’t work (atleast the director gets brownie points for showing how one cannot get away by kissing a total stranger).
As he tries to flee from the scene of crime, Sreenu finds himself shirtless at the roof of an apartment and in a comedy-of-errors situation, he is mistaken for a messenger of God, sent from the heavens to bless mankind.
In just one moment, the brash, conniving Sreenu turns into Krishna Nanda Swamy. It’s only a matter of time before people come by the dozen to see this new Baba and seek blessings from him. As the Baba gains in popularity, he attracts the attention of corrupt politicians, lawyers and cops – who smell a rat and become part of the scam when they realise how lucrative fake Godmen can be.
The story seems to flow almost seamlessly, with even the songs fitting into the narration (which is rarity), and for that the director deserves credit. It’s quite amusing to see a young Godman, wearing jeans and speaking imperfect Telugu – being perceived as a God by the people. Prudhviraj is in top form in Dwaraka, and is a riot whenever he’s on-screen. For a low-budget film in an urban setting, Dwaraka looks good (cinematography by Shyam K Naidu).
However, for a film with tremendous comic potential, Dwaraka is less comedy and more drama. Apart from Prudhviraj, there’s hardly comic element in the film, despite having a cast and situation tailor-made for a laughter-riot. Dwaraka turns needlessly melodramatic and preachy as it progresses, with the second half dragging on more than it should.
The love story too is exaggerated and unconvincing. The Swamy reveals he true identity, reminds Vasudha that he first met her at the temple (tried to kiss her, rather), and admits that he’s a fraud. If this was not enough to raise red flags, he somehow manages to convince her mother that she must stay in the house-turned-ashram for 21 days. Over the course of it, they inevitably fall for each other.
Vijay Devarakonda is immensely likeable and fits the character perfectly. Among the younger heroes, he looks a real talent and is definitely one to watch out for. Pooja Jhaveri puts in an earnest performance. Prabhakar as the antagonist seems to have just one expression throughout the film, while Murali Sharma shines in a brief role.
For all its flaws, Dwaraka veers away from the infamous Telugu template and offers something for the viewers to think about. For this alone, it can be worth a watch. But at the end of the day, you can’t help but wonder what it could’ve been.