A half-decent setup gets lost in a sea of artifice
Cast: Arulnithi, Madhoo, Achyuth Kumar, Ragav Vijay, Smruthi Venkat, Chetan, Kali Venkat
Director: Arvindh Srinivasan
It might not be a completely original idea, but it’s kind of cool for a thriller to start with a pulp fiction writer who confesses to a policeman that he’s being stalked by the fictional characters he has written. It’s part Stranger Than Fiction, part Weird Science when the entire state of Tamil Nadu waits for every new word from novelist Subramani (Achyut Kumar) to figure out what happened to a missing woman. She’s not just any woman – she’s the daughter of the DGP (a displaced Madhoo) and the fact that the police can’t find her makes the case sensational for the media and embarrassing for the police. With this flight of fancy, we’re in for an investigative thriller that needs some kind of magic to keep the storyline going.
It’s a perfectly feasible setup placed in a perfectly feasible scenario. By taking this writer’s conflict and placing it within the larger state apparatus, the film poses a hazy, esoteric question about everyone’s problem. The writer-director doubles down on this by introducing a secret agent named Vikram (Arulnithi) who the DGP contacts to bring back his daughter and we also get an action subplot. On the one hand, Vikram sets the film in a realistic world with real-life issues, even as the other keeps looking through Subramani’s notes to find out what happens next.
This is also where the script begins to falter. After investing so much time into such a setup, you’d expect the movie to go out of its way and push that conceit to take us to new places. At first, every word the novelist writes really matters in the scheme of things, but with each passing scene, he recedes into the background, first as a recurring joke and later as a complete distraction.
It gets a lot more frustrating when the idea is almost entirely scrapped only to come back to that fantastic idea to make it plausible. In doing so, it removes the one aspect of the film that sets it apart from hundreds of other films that are about similar cases and the ensuing investigation.
But that’s not the only problem. The film then turns into a series of tricks that are written to give you one twist after another. For example, the film breaks off during the interval with a corpse fished out of a lake. Since the movie up until then was about finding a missing woman, it’s done intentionally to create an event. But the way even that moment is pushed aside, with nothing more mentioned about that body, removes any tension the script was about to create for itself. If the movie doesn’t care about the missing woman, why should we? These tricks keep coming and somewhere in his effort to shock us, we stop caring even when he has a valid point to make about the encounter killings.