Is Samantha’s performance in ‘Yashoda’ fantastic? A big ‘YES!’. But did I struggle to stay awake in the movie theater and regretted not waiting for it to come on some OTT platform? ‘Yes’ to that too.

Written and directed by duo Haresh Narayan and K. Hari Shankar, 2022 Telugu thriller ‘Yashoda’ stars Samantha Ruth Prabhu as the titular lead, who signs up for a surrogacy program for financial reasons. After receiving a hefty paycheck, she is taken a to a fancy facility called ‘Eva’, where multiple surrogate mothers like her are taken care of under strict rules and guidelines, since their babies are to be handed over to millionaires/billionaires. While things seem great about the facility on surface, there’ something shady about the place and Yashoda tries to investigate what is going on. A parallel sub-plot about cops investigating a murder of a business-tycoon and model leads to some disturbing revelations.

The basic plot of the film is definitely intriguing, but the writers exaggerate and embellish too much. The execution is chaotic and even childish in parts. For example, ‘Eva’ is run like a prison facility, which gives a great dystopian touch to the story, but the surrogate mothers behave like juveniles at a boarding school and like to bully newcomers. The story can’t maintain one mood for long, and each shift in tone is jarring. ‘Yashoda’ ends up being an odd mixture of mass 90s masala entertainer and modern slick action mystery.

The writers bore viewers by over-explaining everything. Even the antagonists get to give a detailed background story about how they met & conceived their evil plan. It reminded me of a dialogue by Radhika Apte’s cop character in ‘Monica O My Darling’, where she tells a suspect to never give an elaborate back story. “The more perfect your story is, the more doubt it creates,” she smirks. Although, Yashoda’s writers would need a tip on the lines of – “the longer the story, the more loopholes”.

The fight sequences featuring Samantha were well choreographed and entertaining, but the rest of the story elements keep faltering. Also, I don’t understand the script’s fixation with rape. Why else would a two hour film have two rape attempts and an additional instance of sexual harassment? Two instances were crucial to the plot, but one rape attempt was absolutely unnecessary. Plenty of male heroes get to fight in action flicks without the villain trying to get into their pants. So why can’t leading ladies kick some ass without having to deal with sexual violence? Sigh.

Some questions that arise in the first half are answered in an ‘almost satisfying’ manner in the climax. But the ending is overstretched, despite there being perfect opportunities to wind up the film a little earlier. With some trimming of unnecessary scenes and emotional excesses, ‘Yashoda’ could have been a fantastic thriller. It does have its moments but is diluted due to its unrealistic scale.

It’s a 5/10 from me.

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