Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya is the closest to a Sherlock Holmes that India has produced in recent times.

Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya (Naveen Polishetty) is the brilliant, but underappreciated detective from Nellore who runs a detective agency called FBI (Fatima Bureau of Investigation). The movie’s opening arc is a delightful laughter riot as AthreyaAgent teaches his unorthodox sleuthing methods to his new assistant, Sneha (Shruti Sharma). He draws inspiration from numerous fictional characters and even fashions himself after Sherlock Holmes, complete with a trench coat, a hat, and a Starbucks cup. His first assignment for Sneha is to familiarize herself with Hollywood classic thrillers such as The Shawshank Redemption, Shutter Island, The Silence of the Lambs, and L.A. Confidential such that she is able to identify the criminal in the opening 20 minutes itself. There is even a brilliant meta-reference to Drishyam, when he advises a prison inmate to get fake bills from another city to get bail.

I found Naveen’s easy exuberance endearingly familiar to Michael Scott, as he aces the portrayal of an eccentric detective with his phenomenal dialogue delivery and body language. Shruti Sharma also impresses as the quintessential Dr. Watson to Naveen’s Sherlock. After the fun caper of a first half, the movie breaks into a headlong sprint in the second half as Agent is pushed into a multi-layered maze of misleading clues, dead bodies, religious beliefs, and elaborate conspiracies. It all comes to head in a dizzying climax, as Agent faces a race against time to unearth the connection between the seemingly random sinister incidents. While it’s hinted throughout the movie that the antagonist is a step ahead of Agent, the final reveal is delivered courtesy of a brilliant twist you never see coming.

Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya is a delightful crime thriller, laced with humor, that doesn’t allow itself to be diluted with unnecessary tropes. As I kept waiting for the lead pair to invariably fall in love and break into song, I was pleasantly surprised to see the movie steer clear of clichéd tropes that you normally tend to associate with Tollywood. Intelligent and savvy, Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya will go down as one of the finest crime investigative thrillers in the last decade. I fervently hope there are sequels on the way.