I imagine being an ambulance driver is a very demanding job. You have the enormous responsibility of ensuring that patients under your care get to the hospital in time. But, then you have the return trip – delivering dead bodies back to their relatives, which is even more depressing when those relatives are in the ambulance with you, crying their hearts out.

Of course, human beings are pretty good at getting used to their circumstances. It’s not hard to imagine someone who does this for a living gets a little numb about all this.

We find Christie (Sunny Wayne), the protagonist of the film, at such a point in his life. To him delivering dead bodies is just another job – one that doesn’t even pay much. So you understand why he’s not particularly thrilled when he’s called in as a replacement to transport a poor grieving family of five and their young dead relative to their home far away from the city.

They’re a poor family. The old man (Nedumudi Venu) is frail and tired. The two women (Seema G. Nair, Beena Antony) never stop crying, and the other two men look like they’re barely holding up. This is shaping up to be a pretty depressing journey.

Along the way they stop the ambulance to pick up some gallons of petrol. “It’s for the jeep that they had to leave behind on the way to the hospital,” explains the old man. Hmm. That’s plausible.

When a scuffle between a few migrant workers threatens to delay their trip, the old man breaks it up in style by beating them off. Hmm… what happened to him being frail and tired?

And, why did the women suddenly stop crying? Why’re they putting on makeup? Is that something people do when they’re grieving? Did the old man just pay them off? “No“, says the old man. “They’re relatives from far away and can’t stay for the funeral. And they needed the bus fare to get back home.” Sure old man, if that’s what you say.

The two men take out liquor bottles and start drinking inside the ambulance. And, did they just say they’re going to burn the body with petrol in a forest?

Christie’s finally had enough. He stomps on the breaks and demands an explanation. The old man gives him one – a gun.

Who are these people? Who’s the dead guy? What’s our hero got himself into?

Throw in a few corrupt cops, politicians, doctors, and an extremely intelligent super cop and you have a bona fide thriller on your hands.

Well that’s Saradhi – a pretty good story, with competent performances and an engaging soundtrack.  It’s even enjoyable at times.

But, the problems are many and varied. It’s really hard to sit through the first thirty minutes or so of the movie. You know how we have pointless item songs in our films (thrillers seem especially susceptible to this)? This one takes it to a whole new level. I thought maybe I’d wandered into the wrong theatre.

Here’s the scene. The protagonist says there’s something he needs to do and steps into an obvious set designed just for the item number, walks around while a woman (and back up dancers, because, of course) dances around. When the song ends the scene ends and the whole thing is never spoken of again. It had nothing to do with anything. A pointless sequence wasting precious screen time that could have been used to flesh out the hero’s character.

And I don’t care how important the movie thinks its message is but, Sreenivasan looking directly at the camera and moralising to the audience is not poignant, mature or intelligent. It’s just funny in an “Oh, that’s nice” kind of way.

Saradhi has a great story, competent performances (Sunny Wayne is pretty good), a good soundtrack, a passable screenplay (and that’s going easy on it), and poor direction. Not a complete waste of time, but not the best use of it either. So um… yeah.

Next week – something better (hopefully).

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