Zombie Reddy is the first-ever Telugu Zombie movie. In the 89 years of our Telugu film Industry's existence, this is one genre that no one ever laid even a finger on. After 8 decades, finally comes a young ambitious director Prashant Varma and an audacious producer Rajashekar Varma who believed that taking no risk is the biggest risk in the current milieu. And from the output, we can very well say that they have given it their all in trying to make this movie as best as possible.
This movie is the best example of an experimental commercial film. It ticks all the boxes that you expect of a regular commercial movie but underlines them with a Zombie genre.
Off the bat, the most interesting yet weird combination of 2 distinct worlds that the director chose to combine is something that we would have never thought of - A zombie attack in a faction land (that too Kurnool). Historically, faction lands have been portrayed as the land where you find the blood flowing more freely than water, a single-family rules the entire land, that family's arch-enemy is ruling the neighbor land, thanks to a feud that took place at least a generation ago, and the protagonist sets foot into the land to bring both families together.
Zombie Reddy maintains this age-old setup but infects it with Zombies. It worked out pretty well, to say the least. In an interview, Prashant Varma said that he and his team brainstormed at least 100 crazy situations which when infused with Zombies would create chaotically humorous scenes. Then he filtered out some 10 best ones and made sure to run a plotline through those scenes. I guess the scenes of a Zombie in the first night, in Draupadhi vastrapaharanam, in a jaatara, in a temple, in a car chewing off whichever body part flesh is closer to their mouths have their genesis in that list. While some of them turned out funny, some were flat. I didn't feel that the film had too many great comedy stretches but a couple of them are worth chewing the flesh of someone sitting next to you.
Take for example the scene where Kasi Reddy's character is taking revenge against the savage old lady who makes him clean her tooth set every day or the scene where Mario gets to know his Father's backstory or some scenes in the Jaatara fight. But the impressive part in all this is that the director made sure that he was not reducing the fear that Zombies should strike. The Zombies were shown as seriously as they should have been at every point. It is the reaction to Zombies by different characters that were handled in a comic sense.
While the film was definitely good, no doubt about that. The makers could have taken some more care in establishing the rules of the Zombie behavior and then using it to their advantage. Take for example Train to Busan, the Zombie behavior is established very clearly that they are lost in dark, which is then taken advantage of by the surviving set of people to cross the compartment filled with Zombies. In Zombie Reddy you don't know whether it is the flesh or sound or smell or a visual of a human that attracts them. It need not be logical, you can establish anything but it must be consistent because all the Zombies have the same virus origin. While they are trapped in the house, they realize that it is the smell, then immediately it is the sound, then you don't know why they are waiting outside the house for the people trapped inside, in the climax, they are called through sound (conch), then while running inside the temple they leave the people who were at the door. This inconsistency could have been avoided.
The other part that could have been better is the cliched faction scenes, they could have given a new treatment instead of resorting to the same age-old. Another thing that I noticed was that the edit goes to a flashback for even some of the minutest things which the audience would get. Overall the entire movie gave me a feeling that the screenplay treated the audience a little less intelligent compared to his 2 earlier outings Awe and Kalki.
The touch of Mario game to Mario (the character) in the opening sequence on his way to the office was innovative, the setup and pay-off of the Temple story and the rocket dancing sequence with kerosene on the body were a treat to watch on screen. The cinematography, production design, and background score were stunning as they gave us the chills at the right moments.
But the climactic sequence in the temple is easily one of my top favorite climaxes in Telugu cinema. The racy screenplay, the pulsating score, the vibe of Mrutyunjaya Stotram, and the final leap into the lake with a ray of light as if sent directly from heaven is pure goosebumps in the theatre.
Directors like Prashant Varma and stories like Zombie Reddy are a rarity in Telugu cinema. Respecting them critically and commercially will pave the way for many more such stories to take life.
I am definitely waiting for and rooting for Zombie Reddy Level 2: The Revenge of the Dead.