At the end of eight episodes, the climax is bound to leave you with questions but it would be fair to say that the two-episode backstory and the characters seemed far more interesting than the six-episode drama and tension that led to it, observes Divya Nair.
Just when the audience is growing tired with an overdose of crime thrillers, Dhootha, meaning 'messenger', gets promoted as a fresh, supernatural thriller.
Directed by Vikram K Kumar, it also marks Naga Chaitanya Akkineni's OTT debut and Parvathy Thiruvothu's foray into Telugu cinema.
With a stellar star cast, Dhootha offered a lot of promise, at least from the trailer.
Naga Chaitanya plays Sagar Varma, an enterprising journalist who wouldn't mind trading his ethics for a front-page sponsored content in his newly launched publication.
His khadi-clad mentor (V Jayaprakash) is disappointed with his protégé and explains why he disagrees with Sagar's principles but he is ruthlessly shown the door.
Soon, you'd realise why Sagar chose to flourish as the poster boy of new age journalism. For him, the second oldest profession is no longer the fourth pillar of democracy but a potential money-making vehicle.
Sagar's arrogance is dented when he discovers old paper clippings warning him about events and accidents that eventually claim the lives of his loved ones. Thus begins a journey of filtering fact from fiction and connecting the dots.
It all begins when Sagar loses his pet in a road accident. While his family is saved, he has reason to believe that the accident was pre-planned by one of his rivals.
One thing leads to another, and soon, Sagar finds himself locked in a web of circumstances that paint him as a criminal mastermind. As he tries to cover his tracks, DCP Kranthi (Parvathy) uncovers the mystery killings and successfully links it back to Sagar.
Meanwhile, Sagar believes that the only thing that will stop the killings is if he manages to take his own life.
Does Sagar find out who is orchestrating these unnatural deaths? Or will he sacrifice his life to protect his loved ones?
In eight episodes, Vikram manages to keep you hooked with his eerie narration of events. Even in situations where you realise that the end is obvious, as an audience you wait for the trigger, followed by a sequence of events, like you are in a Final Destination movie.
The storytelling is engaging but you have to wait too long to connect the dots.
Each episode is about 40 minutes long which ensures you wouldn’t binge watch this series in one day.
The screenplay is good, but the characters are not well sketched out.
Some of the performances by the supporting cast are brilliant while others, including the lead actors, merely stick to the script. For example, Naga Chaitanya doesn't display the traits of a journalist and Parvathy comes across as too perfect for a cop.
Naga Chaitanya fails to evoke the necessary fear, shock and empathy his character should, especially in key moments of the series, which is disappointing. You get to know Sagar is rude and ruthless from his dialogues, not his expressions and body language.
Even after six episodes, we don't get to know Sagar and Kranthi's likes and dislikes or preferences and priorities, basically what shaped these individuals into who they are.
Actors like Ravindra Vijay, Prachi Desai and Srikant Murali manage to shine in their limited screen time.
At the end of eight episodes, the climax is bound to leave you with questions but it would be fair to say that the two-episode backstory and the characters seemed far more interesting than the six-episode drama and tension that led to it.
With Dhootha, Vikram has delivered a safe thriller while playing to a gallery that likes happy endings with a good social message.
Dhootha airs on Amazon Prime Video.