Over the years, cinema has been utilized in plentiful ways. It has experienced frequent ups and downs, transitioning from being a tool for propaganda, jingoism and hate to a medium of entertainment, enlightenment and emotional significance, at the simplest sense. V K Prakash's Careful- a Malayalam remake of the Kannada hit, U Turn- is a film aware of the medium's unequivocal strength to spread social messages. It still capitulates to conformity for the majority of its content, that is, the story, jumps between being laid-back and poorly designed.
Careful is a rare instance of the second half exceeding the first half in story-telling quality. Not to say that that helped the film recuperate from its sloth-like pace because the plot twist everyone had been waiting for turns out to be a dud and necessitates a late relapse, This is not exactly the fault of the writer or the director since it is more or less a faithful adaptation of the Kannada original. Then again, what is the point of a remake when it cannot right the wrongs of its source material, let alone re-imagine it?
The film boasts the presence of a female journalist as its central character; a motivated struggler and the fulcrum of the film. Sadly, soon enough the character, Rachna(Sandhya Raju) and her performance are overshadowed by Vijay Babu, who is supposed to be in the supporting role of a police officer. Debutante Sandhya's evasive performance and director Prakash's lack of clarity to the role are to be blamed for the failure of the character.
Careful also disturbs you, for all the wrong reasons, when it shows at one point hard-boiled cops harassing Rachna as they initially suspect her to be responsible for a murder. The 'right-minded' officers, in fact, arrest the woman after sundown (which is strictly prohibited in reality) and mentally torture her with rapid-fire questions and complete ignorance for her responses. Mind you, the victim is a journalist and questioned only based on circumstantial evidence.
Rachna is expected to know her rights should her character look believable. What is worse is she puzzles us by not even resisting the atrocity she has been experiencing at the hands of the cops and instead submits to their will. Incidentally, Rachna is proven innocent and goes home with an apology from the cops. Sure, they look stupid on screen but conveniently escape deserving punishment for their reckless, inhuman act. The whole incident is trivialized and created to move the story forward when it is actually much more problematic.
V K Prakash surprised many with Nirnayakam where he took up a topic overlooked by society and highlighted its deeper significance. The same approach drives him towards the plot of Careful, which is a parable for careless violation of traffic rules. But, a lot of things go against the moralistic tale viz, the empty writing, a repellent plot twist and a futile cover-up for its lethargy in the form of blaring BGM and slo-mo effects.
What we get is a film which does not know if it is off-beat or straightforward as a mystery thriller. What we get is anything but careful filmmaking.
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