Monday, May 20, 2024

Custody: A cleverly crafted underdog cop thriller

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Amartya Smaran

What can a constable even do? A lot! Venkat Prabhu’s Custody is the story of an affable middle class constable named A. Shiva (Naga Chaitanya)—an underdog, a dutiful cop, caring family man, and a sincere lover.

The opening sequence is set in Morampudi, 1996. We are confronted by massive cylinder blasts that claim at least 40 lives. The media does its job, the political angle seeps into the picture, but the cause of the incident remains unresolved. The timeline cuts to 1998, and stays there for the rest of the movie.

The introduction scene, where Shiva’s character—a constable at Sakhinetipalli Police Station—runs through the crowd to stop CM Dakshayani’s (Priyamani) convoy to let an ambulance pass through, establishes his character. The CM gets down from her car and praises Shiva for doing his duty, and even asks him to keep her posted about the patient in the ambulance. This level of dutifulness bothers Shiva’s superior, SI Rengappa, and he often bullies him.

Shiva’s sincerity brings him face-to-face with Raju (Arvind Swamy) and

Senior Police Officer Nataraj (R. Sarathkumar). Raju is a ruthless criminal and has friends in high places. He drinks like there’s no tomorrow, and doesn’t shy away from asking for a ‘match-box’. It doesn’t matter whether he’s locked up, shot at, or severely injured, he just wants his matches and liquor. And, ya! It’s ‘Raazzzu’ not just ‘Raju’.

Arvind Swamy embodies the character with such conviction that one can’t possibly think of such an endearing bad guy (wink). R. Sarathkumar as the short-tempered bad cop, who smokes cigarettes in his own peculiar style, kills it with his screen presence. The presence of these two massive personalities makes us root for Shiva. Venkat Prabhu cashes in on this power dynamic, and keeps us glued to our seats. Shiva’s only goal is to present Raju at the Bangalore Court in less than twodays,s as per CBI officer George’s (Sampath Raj) request. A special shoutout to Sampath for his terrific performance.

Shiva’s love interest, Revathi (Krithi Shetty) teaches driving at Prem driving school. Her parents plan to get her married to the owner of the driving school, Prem (Vennela Kishore). Now, Prem is a funny looking guy with unkempt hair and quirky mannerisms. Vennela Kishore plays Prem with sheer brilliance, and the comedy works out superbly. Shiva’s and Revathi’s attempts to stop the wedding will surely make you all laugh. At one point, Prem unknowingly helps the couple elope.

Venkat Prabhu’s ability to blend comedy into high-stake situations is praiseworthy. The comedy track never falls out of the place, and goes well with the sequence of events.

Krithi Shetty’s character is just not confined to romancing a good looking hero on the screen. Her role is as important as Chay’s, and she managed to bring a great deal of sensitivity to the character. She fights off bad guys, keeps Shiva grounded, and her lack of ability to sense the seriousness of the situation acts as a great relief amid the rising tension. For instance, Revathi insists Raju (hand-cuffed and wounded) talk about his love story. Both of them go on-and-on until Shiva asks them to shut up.

The first half of the film ends with spectacular underwater and tunnel sequences (action by Stun Siva and Mahesh Mathew). The action in this film couldn’t get any real. These are not gravity defying action sequences, but they are very cleverly choreographed. Especially, the crucial fight sequence in the jail (long single shot) in the first half that sets the tone for Shiva’s character was choreographed well.

The interval bang leaves you on high. However, the second half of the film takes a hit. The issue here is that the screenplay goes back in time. Venkat Prabhu tries to justify the ongoing sequences with frequent flashback scenes. Of course, it makes sense, but the pacing goes for a toss. Another thing is that the first half gets you so excited, you end up expecting a lot more than scenes that explain the effect.

Ilaiyaraaja’s signature synth score can be heard throughout the film, but what stands out is Yuvan Shakar Raja’s background score. You will walk out of the theatres humming the score. Yuvan’s score adds power to the elevation scenes that you wouldn’t want to bat your eyes. Custody is a clear winner when it comes to its background score. The songs—not much.

Hands down, Custody has to be Naga Chaitanya’s best film in terms of his performance. He shines in every single frame. Venkat Prabhu does a fantastic job of blending elements of action, comedy, smart writing, pulling up pop-culture references, and extracting the best from the actors. However, he could have explored the depth of Priyamani’s character and dug deeper into the underlying political theme. You will notice a lot of tight close-up shots. This actually helps us feel closer to the inner emotions of the characters.


Custody is an engaging film that doesn’t bore you for the most part. I’d say a few creative choices didn’t really work in the second half of the film, but that’s not to say that it’s a no-brainer. It’s a film that puts a man’s morality and resilience to test, and delivers nine out of ten times. For instance, at point blank, Shiva’s father—wonderfully played by Goparaju Ramana— doesn’t give in to the threats of Senior Cop Nataraj and says, “Shiva! Don’t you dare come out…don’t. Let the truth come out and win.”

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