April 5, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Srikanth Odela
Telugu with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Veerlapally, India, mostly in 2009 (and briefly in 1995 and 2016), the action film “Dasara” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: In a city plagued by alcoholism, a thief experiences a love triangle with not only his best friend but also with a ruthless politician.
Culture Audience: “Dasara” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching epic love stories and have a high tolerance for action scenes that are brutally violent.
“Dasara” uses a lot of familiar techiques in over-the-top action movies about love triangles and vengeful family members. However, the acting performances are better than most movies in this genre. The movie’s story also maintains suspense and intrigue.
Srikanth Odela makes his feature-film directorial debut with “Dasara,” a highly energetic and occasionally ridiculous saga that touches on serious issues of alcoholism, political corruption and domestic violence. Odela co-wrote the “Dasara” screenplay with Vamsi Krishna P., Jella Srinath and Arjuna Paturi. The movie has some stunning visuals, but the violence might be too intense or offensive for some viewers.
In “Dasara,” which takes place mostly in 2009, Dharani (played by Nani) and his best friend Siddham Suryam, nicknamed Suri (played by Dheekshith Shetty) are unemployed troublemakers in the village of Veerlapally, India. Dharani and Suri steal coal for money. The two pals hang out with other scoundrels, who also steal and get into brawls.
Dharani and a local teacher named Vennela (played by Keerthy Suresh) have known each other since childhood. Dharani (who comes from a lower-caste family) has been in love with Vennela for many years, but she just sees him as a platonic friend. Vennela is actually in love with Suri, who comes from an upper-caste family. Predictably, Vennela’s mother (played by Jhansi) would rather have Vennela marry Suri.
Veerlapally is a village plagued by alcoholism. Many women in the village have spouses or partners who are violent alcoholics. The central pub in the village is called Silk Bar. And whoever owns Silk Bar has the most power in Veerlapally. The way that customers are served by the Silk Bar is a reflection of the caste system: The upper-caste people are served inside, while the lower-caste people must stay outside in order to be served.
“Dasara” has a subplot about two stepbrothers who are competing with each other for control of Veerlapally. Shivanna (played by Samuthirakani) is considered to be the upstanding citizen, while Rajanna (played by Sai Kumar) has a reputation for being corrupt. These sibling rivals compete against each other by forming different political parties. Shivanna wins an election to be the leader of Veerlapally, but Rajanna bitterly contests the election.
The rest of “Dasara” shows how Dharani and Suri get swept up in this vicious political power struggle. Rajanna as a son named Chinna Nambi (played by Shine Tom Chacko), who’s a lot worse than Rajanna. It’s enough to say that Chinna Nambi becomes an enemy of Dharani. Chinna Nambi’s long-suffering wife (played by Shamna Kasim) has a pivotal role in the movie.
With a total running time of 156 minutes, “Dasara” takes too long to tell a story that could have easily been told in a movie with a total running time of 120 minutes or less. However, the film moves at such a brisk pace, the long running time doesn’t make “Dasara” a tedious movie to watch. “Dasara” balances the very graphic violence with some comedy and sentimentality. It’s not a great film on any level, but it’s of a slightly higher quality than the formulaic and soulless action junk that gets churned out by movie studios on a regular basis.
AA Films released “Dasara” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on March 30, 2023.