Hari Shankar and Harish Narayan’s Telugu thriller, Yashoda, is a Samantha Ruth Prabhu show and she keeps you hooked despite the film’s obvious flaws. A powerhouse from the get-go, the range of emotions she portrays is beyond impressive.
Yashoda (Prabhu) is a young girl who lives with her sister in a slum in Hyderabad. She needs money for her sister’s operation and decides to become a surrogate to get the funds.
She is taken to a high-end facility called Eva, run by Madhu (Vijaylaxmi Shreekumar). Yashoda meets and befriends other needy women like her, who depend on surrogacy to fulfil their financial needs. But the facility gives off an uneasy and illegal vibe, almost like the lab in Resident Evil.
Meanwhile, in separate instances, an unidentified drug kills a Hollywood actor and a local beauty pageant winner dies in a car crash. How the investigation in these cases and Yashoda’s stay at Eva eventually merge shape the narrative.
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From being sweet and mischievous to relentlessly trying to uncover the truth behind Eva, Prabhu switches gears without glitches.
Sarathkumar does a fantastic job of playing Eva’s unsettlingly evil head. Her villain act complements Samantha’s do-gooder. It is refreshing to see two women battle each other as ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ instead of male actors, who form the film’s supporting cast.
Unni Mukundan as Dr Gautham who works at the facility ably supports the narrative of suspicious ongoings at Eva. Sampath Raj as the police academy instructor Vasudev and Shatru as police inspector Rishi do justice to their roles and keep the suspense going with their nail-biting investigation of a mystery drug.
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Flawed plot, sleek design
While the premise is relatively fresh, there are definite borrowings from Hollywood. But one has to credit the creators for bringing that Hollywood edge to Yashoda—especially in action sequences. The attention given to production design—which is almost like a sleek online game—deserves a special mention too.
What doesn’t land well is the film’s forced humour. For one, Rao Ramesh’s comic-evil avatar as a central minister often misfires. The background score with haunting ‘Yashoda’ chants feels a tad cringe too.
Despite an occasionally muddled plot—which goes from untreatable medical conditions to scheming marketing gimmicks for anti-ageing products—the film remains engaging and manages to maintain a tense atmosphere. With her fighting skills, Prabhu reminds us of her role from season 2 of Family Man. But that’s where the similarities end.
The film also takes inspiration from Hindu mythology to add layers to Prabhu’s Yashoda. The element of motherhood being the source of power is rebranded through Prabhu’s role, although some of the dialogues seem melodramatic.
However, the incongruities do not take away from the film. Prabhu is her own brand and Yashoda just adds to her list of solid performances. The extra star is just for her.
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)