A medical student, Karthik (Nikhil) gets entangled in a conspiracy surrounding a famous temple in a village and how he unravels the secret behind the series of mysterious deaths in the village forms the crux of the story.
: Telugu film industry's tryst with suspense thrillers, in any given year, is quite marginal and it's all the more rare to come across a suspense thriller that's done right. In this context, where dabbling with a bunch of cliches is the name of the game, Karthikeya comes like a breath of fresh air. It does fall short from being a true blue edge-of-the-seat thriller and the climax pops up quite abruptly, but a closer look at the proceedings in the film establishes the notion that filmmaker Chandoo Mondeti is a good storyteller, who gives the mood of the story as much importance as he gives to the story and its characters.
The film begins with the death of an official from the Endowments Department, who goes to Subramaniapuram to research more about the popular Subramanya Swamy temple in the village. Soon, we are told that anyone who either talks about the temple or even tries to know more about it is killed by a snake bite. And slowly, this fear turns into a legend which keeps everyone away from the temple for almost a year. Elsewhere, Karthik (Nikhil), a medical student, falls in love with Valli (Swati); however, she keeps avoiding him every time he tries to get closer to her. Meanwhile, Karthik and his friends are asked to go set up a medical camp in Subramaniapuram and Karthik is surprised to see that Valli is also part of the same camp. Soon, he gets entangled in the ongoing conspiracy surrounding the temple and rest of the story is about how he unravels the secret behind the series of mysterious deaths.
Chandoo Mondeti builds the story almost like a case study, which makes the proceedings a little more believable. Right in the first few minutes of the film, we are told that the lead character, Karthik has a keen eye for detail and tries to find an answer to every problem he encounters, and it's just a matter of time before he finds himself in the centre of a big problem. Soon after this character is introduced to the main setting of the story, we are introduced to the dangers lurking around. One of the finest sequences in the film involves Karthik's mother and his niece, who get lost in the middle of the night while trying to find each other. The entire sequence lasts less than five minutes, but the brilliant soundtrack and well-crafted cinematography work so well in tandem with each other that you can't help but appreciate the entire team for how well they understand the mood of the story. It's a pity that more such scenes haven't been written or included in the story. Yet, Chandoo manages to keep the entire story pretty engaging until the climax.
Nikhil is quite impressive as a no-nonsense medical student, who always relies on his instincts to face an adversity. With Swamy Ra Ra and Karthikeya, the actor is slowly building a solid resume of work where he sticks to the characterisation without desperately trying to outshine everyone around him. Swati has little scope for display her histrionics in the film and the same goes to a bunch of other characters like Kishore, who plays a sincere police officer. Among others, Praveen and Satya, who play Nikhil's friends, lighten up the proceedings with their impeccable comic timing.
The film owes a lot to cinematographer Karthik Ghattamaneni and music director, Sekhar Chandra for creating the right ambience and mood for a suspense thriller like this. The good thing about the film is that it sticks to its storyline and everyone seems to know what they are doing. Karthikeya is one of the finer films made in the recent past and in times like these, that in itself is like a big compliment.