If you go with an incredulous attitude, 'Damarukam' will keep you hooked throughout. Srinivas Reddy executes it well. Among other things, he extracts fine performances from one and all, with the exception of Prakash Raj, who looks like a fake God-man rather than a God. There are gripping elements in the story, which are revealed in the first half. Certain aspects of the second half are sure-fire and even fatuous, and it looks hackneyed at places.
Overall, 'Damarukam' is a good entertainer for lovers of films laced with supernatural, mythical elements.
From the word go, the quotient is raised without wasting a single moment. Andhakasura (Ravi Shankar shows his studied acting prowess) is the lone surviving Asura, nurturing hatred for all the divine cheats and cherishing the dream of ruling the solar system. The time is ripe when Maheshwari (Anushka) is born during the rarest time of Pancha Graha Kutami, whom, if Andhakasura marries on a specific day, he would acquire the omnipotent power of controlling the Panchabhutas and 14 worlds.
His ambitious project is fraught with dangers and therefore, upon the advice of his trusted lieutenant (Jeeva as Mayi), Andhakasura does a rigorous penance for several years to realisee Lord Shiva (Prakash Raj). Compelled by the single-minded pursuit of the evil-minded asura, Shiva grants his wish. Having got Shiva's assurance that he will not ruin his effort to marry Maheshwari and equipped with extraordinary occult powers, Andhakasura arrives at the woman's place.
At the other end is Mallikarjuna (Nagarjuna). Born with the blessings of Lord Shiva, he used to chant hymns in his praise as a child. After his parents were killed and his sister was left physically debilitated severely, when a man-eating ogre (plotted against them by Andhakasura who wanted to kill Mallikarjuna, the future hero) attacked them while returning from Kashi, he rejects Shiva. As destiny would have it, he bumps into Maheshwari. The blossoming of divinely-ordained love follows.
The rest of the story is about how Andhakasura plans one machination after another and how Mallikarjuna takes it upon himself to save the world (and the heroine) from the evil clutches of the bold asura (devil). Shiva is there to help the man whose 'kalyanam' is tied up with the grand purpose of 'loka kalyanam'.
All the characterisations are good; the director elevates the mood, builds up the tempo intelligently; the emotions are played up in the right quantity. There is no trace of over-the-topness; the dialogues are measured (but there are no memorable one-liners); the songs are pleasant to watch and do not hinder the pace but for one song (Reppala Pai). The Aghoras throw up a surprise, the pre-interval sequence involving them raises the pitch.
If the villain of mythical proportions is a treat to watch, the hero doesn't come across as a matching answer. Rather than making him seem to be piggybacking on Shiva's divine support, his character should have been written to look like someone with a steely determination to go all alone. Showing him being helped by the Aghoras even minutes before the fight-to-finish is OK, but the director should have added a different dimension to his character so as to make him look great in our minds.
The omniscient villain is shown accomplishing everything through his occult powers. Illogically later, he is shown unwilling and unable to take on the hero who is standing before his very eyes, threatening him of dire consequences if he dares touch her 'chunni'. With a Telugu hero round the corner, even the all-powerful asura has no option but to listen to his dialogues, while we are expected to suspend our disbelief! Why does the supernaturally-gifted villain not want to possess Nag, just like he killed and possessed Ganesh Venkatraman? Is it because he fears Shiva's wrath? The answer cannot be said with certainty.
The CG work is just about OK. Particularly because Nag said the last 30 minutes is top-notch, we are sure to feel let down. It doesn't live up to the glorious claim of matching the standards of a 'Lord Of The Rings' by any measure.
Nag is presented differently; he not only looks glamorous and delivers a mature performance but his dialect is good too. Pitted against a mythically great hero who speaks in chaste Telugu is our mass Telugu hero, who shoots back in his own style. Nag's dialogues could have been better written. Together with Anushka, he makes the songs enjoyable.
Ravi Shankar entertains and looks as venomous as the vipers raising from his head. The dubbing is an asset, so also his make-up.
Anushka has a great screen presence, but she speaks less and no where does she talk or think like a Goddess Parvathi on earth. Carrying the fate of being born in a unique muhurat, she is damned to be jeopardized, contributing nothing in or wanting to save the world!
Prakash Raj's dialogue delivery is fine. He looks totally eerie as Shiva.
Jeeva does his best. Brahmanandam, Raghu Babu, MS and Krishna Bhagawan are given small roles and they entertain in the first half.
Technically, full marks go to DSP. His BG score is as good as the songs. Chota K Naidu's cinematography is neither great nor below-the-mark.