Gatham is the latest direct-to-streamer Telugu film to be set in the United States. Both Nishabdam, starring Anushka Shetty, and Miss India, with Keerthy Suresh used the country that is home to a few lakh Telugu speakers to tell stories that didn’t actually need to be located there. Gatham’s foray into a typically American thriller sub-genre – a couple trapped with a possible psychopath an isolated cabin – makes it better suited to its setting, but only just.

Written and directed by Kiran, the twist-heavy movie revolves around Rishi (Rakesh Galebhe), who has lost his memory in an accident, and Adithi (Lakshmi Bharadwaj), who says she is his girlfriend. Circumstances lead them to a house in the middle of nowhere, where live a bearded gent and his bearded son. Arjun (Bhargava Poludasu) seems to be helpful and welcoming, offering the couple shelter and shielding them from his bug-eyed son Harsha (Harsha). But something’s not quite right with the pair, as Rishi soon finds out.

Rishi doesn’t flee when he can or slug Arjun when he has the opportunity (he counts to 10 instead). Rishi’s lack of a survival instinct, which is explained by subsequent events, is barely convincing, as is the movie’s portrayal of the ease of doing criminal business in the United States.

Despite strictly serviceable performances and a plot that stretches credulity, the 101-minute movie has its share of gripping moments and especially picks up after the big reveal. The whole affair could have been wrapped up earlier if the characters, like the good American citizens they are supposed to be, had approached the police. Instead, the folks in Gatham behave exactly like Indian movie characters who are suspicious of law enforcement and cynical about the speed with which the wheels of justice turn. Kiran’s screenplay gives a reason for their tearing hurry. There’s another one that isn’t in the film: Indians may go to any corner of the earth, but will behave exactly as they would back home.

Gatham (2020).