- BOTTOM LINE
An Okayish Thriller with Good Performances
|Platform: Zee5||Genre: Thriller|
What is the Story about?
Vizag-based Swathi Reddy, played by Amala Akkineni is introduced as a renowned psychic and tarot reader. She heals the problems of her clients by understanding the mysterious patterns through which supernatural spirits communicate with their targets. High Priestess takes us through the unusual stories of her diverse clients and the unique approach that Swathi employs to resolve each of their problems.
The story runs across eight episodes in a series of flashbacks that Swathi narrates to her longtime college friend Vikram (Kishore Kumar). The episodes basically revolve around themes like love, betrayal, revenge, and superstitions amid different backdrops. Though the stories don’t appear exactly new or out-of-the-box, it’s their gripping treatment that keeps you glued to your screens.
Even though it appears that Amala Akkineni is the leading protagonist of the series, she isn’t the only one hogging the limelight. The veteran actress in her digital debut appears too restrained and diplomatic than what her role demands. Her Telugu dubbing leaves a lot to be desired. We also end up seeing more of Amala in the character than the psychic Swathi Reddy. Yet, you can’t ignore the fact her performance has its shades of authenticity, especially with her facet of tarot-reading. Supporting actor Kishore Kumar has most of his portions alongside Amala, with whom he shares a warm on-screen camaraderie.
Popular ad-filmmaker Pushpa Ignatius forays into the digital medium with confidence in this series, that holds your attention with its reasonably gripping screenplay. The director certainly has a good eye for her visuals, the frames in the series are decked up with finesse and the choice of locations suit the backdrop of the stories. Pushpa more or less succeeds in extracting neat performances from her cast and there’s no unnecessary melodrama in most episodes.
High Priestess has six sub-plots that deals with the clients of the protagonist.
A mother and an unborn baby: The conflict in this plot seems rather superficial and the resolution through revenge too is far from pleasing. There’s no surprise element to the plot but subtle treatment salvages this.
An insecure woman and her encounter with supernatural spirits: This segment is a hat-tip to many Hollywood movies surrounding haunted spirits in dolls (a.l.a Annabelle, The Conjuring series) However, the idea of a woman feeling insecure about her beauty in her 30s is a unique dimension to this thread. The resolution, though yet again is weak, while the screenplay is gripping enough.
A child and a washing machine: This thread is about a child encountering strange experiences with a washing machine. Though the premise seems silly to begin with, the director builds the tension in this segment well.
A lawyer and a coconut: This is a sub-plot that binds elements of superstition, paranormal spirits in the life of a lawyer, who’s guilty of winning a false case on behalf of his client. An engaging performance by Brahmaji makes us sit through this.
A college student and an accident: A college friend of Swathi is troubled by unusual occurrences at 12:15 in different parts of the day. How he digs up his past, realises the truth behind an accident, makes for a gripping watch.
A girl and two men: While this just seems another love triangle with a supernatural twist, to begin with, the emotional aspect to the story catches your attention.
Intermittently, you go back and forth towards the flashback portions that deal with the love life of Swathi and Vikram. But there’s nothing exciting about it at all. The twist in the end, though predictable, provides some zing to the proceedings. On the whole, despite its positives, you can’t shrug off the apparent non-Telugu flavour in the series. For a series that was largely marketed as a Telugu original, most of its faces are Tamil-speaking actors whose Telugu comes with an accent. The dubbing is poor and the impact of the series is largely diluted because of the absence of the regional connect. The premise is reasonably strong in each of the episodes, although most of the stories seem to have rather simplistic endings.
Sunaina, Brahmaji, Varalakshmi Sarathkumar, and Nandini Rai are among the known faces in High Priestess. Brahmaji is as dependable as ever, in the role of a lawyer. He exhibits good comedic touch to his part, though he could have done a better job with his Telangana accent. Varalakshmi has a very brief role to make an impact. At best, this can be counted as a special appearance that has its moments of sparkle. Sunaina has among the better subplots of the series and the credible performer makes use of a nuanced role to deliver the goods. The real surprise, however, is Nandini Rai, who comes up with a brilliant performance as a woman who can’t come to terms with ageing and her fading beauty. The writer surely deserves credit for the way her role has shaped up . The other supporting actors too do a good job but there’s no reason why you don’t see enough Telugu actors here.
Music and other departments?
The background score doesn’t use mere jumpscares to spook audiences and makes the most of silence to generate the thrills. Sounderrajan’s cinematography and art direction are among the high points of the series, despite the domination of set-backdrops and limitations with regard to outdoor locations. The detailing is as good as any feature film. The dialogues of the series could’ve been better.
Impressive technical values
Simplistic resolution of conflicts
Poor dubbing, absence of Telugu connect
Lack of novelty
Will you recommend it?
Yes, but with reservations
High Priestess Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur