Crime thrillers that chronicle serial killers and their macabre acts are often criticised for being exploitative and humanising the murderer, but the makers and stars of Telugu investigative cop drama ‘HIT: The Second Case’ claim they were vigilant about not falling prey to that popular narrative.
Starring an in-form actor Adivi Sesh of ‘Major’ fame and talent Meenakshi Chaudhary, this thriller directed by Sailesh Kolanu — playing in UAE cinemas now — chronicles the capture of a serial killer who targets women by the cracking Homicidal Intervention Team. Sesh plays the leader of the team Krishna Dev “KD”, a man who can drip swagger, sarcasm, and sentimentality in equal measure.
“Director Sailesh was inspired by some crimes against women in the US and it was important to be that when there’s a strong undercurrent about violence against women, it’s not from the villain’s perspective. We have addressed that issue [being exploitative] in the film too especially in the film’s climax,” said Sesh over a Zoom video call with director Sailesh and actress Chaudhary. But do you know who was actually exploited?
“Me!” said Sesh with a wicked laugh. (But more on that later).
Here are 10 things we gleaned from the terrific partners-in-crime trio Sesh, Chaudhary and director Kolanu …
1. ‘HIT: The 2nd Case’ is the second instalment of the Telugu-language thriller series. The first instalment, directed by then-debutant director Sailesh Kolanu, was a tale of a missing young girl. The 2020 film was set in Telangana and starred Viswak Sen. The second instalment, starring Adivi Sesh, is set in Vizag where he plays non-uniformed cop on call to track down a sinister killer who targets young women in his city. The unsub’s (unknown killer) method is grotesque where he mutilates his targets and pieces together torn body parts from several of his kills.
“In this film, we are talking about a killer who’s quoting Sanskrit [verses] about women being worshipped while killing her,” said Sesh.
2. Director Sailesh Kolanu and his lead stars were also particular that this thriller doesn’t come across a titillating tale. The director had two sets of filters for his screenplay whom he placed immense faith on.
“If there was anything that was remotely titillating then those line from my script would be called out by my wife. She’s an independent thinker and very strong-headed. She’s also opinionated and I trust her tell me right on my face if there’s anything in the script that hurts her or is going in the wrong direction. Plus, I ran it by Prashanti, one of the producers for this film, and made sure that the script hits the right chords. Even unintentionally, I do not want to strike the wrong tone,” said Kolanu.
3. Actor Adivi Sesh, who is riding high after the success of his war film ‘Major’, took a wicked swipe at his director for making him run through hoops for this role. In ‘HIT: The Second Case’, Sesh plays KD (Krishna Dev), the mercurial agent lead of the HIT team, a special unit that cracks disturbing and grotesque crimes.
“Sailesh exploited me! He made me run through the rain and through the sludge. He made me run, actually roll around, in a fish market in Vizag for about four days every day and then decided the shot will look better at night! So I ended up rolling some more,” said Sesh with a laugh. It was clear from their body language that this team was a close knit one who worked on a set that was democratic.
“I was bruised and limping and my stomach was hurting from the punches that an actor accidentally came my way. Trust me, it wasn’t all fun and games,” said Sesh.
4. ‘HIT: The Second Case’, which opened to mixed reviews in India, is competing with nearly a dozen film releases that hit cinemas at the same time. But the team of ‘HIT’ aren’t worried. According to Sesh, his new thriller lends itself ideally to the “big screen experience”.
“Now more than ever, it’s become clear that it’s not the size of a film that determines big-screen worthiness or OTT-friendliness. It’s the narrative, the beats, the rhythms in storytelling that works.
“Plus, we are the baddest boy on the block as far as South Indian cinema is concerned this weekend,” said Sesh.
5. Actress Meenakshi Chaudhary, who plays KD’s partner in this film, described her experience of working with the ‘HIT: The Second Case’ team as a ‘fun ride’.
“Being on the set with a great and talented director and actor was a learning experience. It was fulfilling and enriching because I have learned a lot. These two fine men — who are always joking around each other — have actually entertained me and kept me going. I have such good memories attached to this film,” said Chaudhary. Hearing her congenial response, her co-star Adivi Sesh couldn’t help but to pull her leg.
“I think Meenakshi should join the United Nations because that was one diplomatic response,” said Sesh. Their camaraderie was on full display there.
6. Sesh claims his new thriller is different from the usual film cottage-crime capers because it’s not a whodunit, but a why-dunit.
“When you look at Jeffrey Dahmer, BTK Killer [serial killer Dennis Lynn Rader known as BTK, an abbreviation he gave himself, for “bind, torture, kill”], Zodiac Killer is that they got pleasure from their killings. For instance, Dahmer grew up in a relatively normal household with some bad stuff that happens in half of the houses in the world. But they are not out killing people. Our serial killer’s motives are clear and specific. This film was less of a whodunit and more about a whydunit,” explained Adivi Sesh.
7. A lot of research went into the ‘HIT’ series and its principal players, says director Kolanu.
“Usually with documentaries, what you see is one crime and the mindset behind that crime and the solution to it. What I have done with my ‘HIT’ series is embark on a string of films based on my research of multiple crimes. I picked up dramatic points from various crimes that are screen-worthy and story-worthy. I have weaved them so that the story appears seamless as one investigation. It’s also realistic even though this is a fictional investigation … There’s a lot of dramatic high you will experience,” said Kolanu. Apparently, he took some liberty when it came to injecting some swag into his hero.
“HIT is a fictional department to solve crimes and we took creative liberties. We don’t have such a homicide intervention team in India, so I created my own rule book where the team members can grow beards and wear no uniform so that they can be among to public to get information … I have established my own world here,” said Kolanu. The HIT-verse is a term coined for his hit crime thriller franchise.
8. Sesh’s character KD is someone who’s borderline arrogant but intelligent.
“He’s someone who feels he’s too good for the city and that he has everything under control … But then an incident triggers him to re-evaluate that. Sailesh wanted to raise the swagger and my character’s overconfidence. But it all flips,” said Adivi Sesh.
9. This team truly believes that South Indian films are having a glorious moment in the box office sun. Films such as ‘Kantara’, ‘KGF: Chapter 2’ and ‘RRR’ have done incredible business in the UAE, India and other key territories.
“We are going through a creative renaissance both in Telugu cinema and in South Indian films," said Sesh. "The number of footfalls and tickets being sold are proof that rooted, realistic stories have a growing audience now. Yes, we have our share of guys flying in the air, but at least our heroes are no longer saying his line in Hindi, then the same exact line in English for extra emphasis!
10. Sesh hopes that his new film will take an indirect swipe at patriarchy.
“As an actor and hero I feel we have a certain responsibility. There’s a lot of patriarchal people among us and it’s important that the young guys who watch Telugu films will look at this as a cautionary tale,” said Adivi Sesh.
Don’t miss it!
‘HIT: The Second Case’ is out in UAE cinemas now.