Bala prepares us for the nasty journey that we are about to witness by filling the whole screen with garbage for the most part of the opening credits. This merges on to what seems to be agricultural land, which then merges on to apartments in Pallikaranai(?). We get a deja vu of a similar auteur’s film Taramani that released last year but this auteur is rawer. A sea of metaphors run in our mind on what this movie might be about but Bala surprises us with something that not many would have guessed.
The movie is about a women trying to solve a rape case and what she and the people related to the case go through in this patriarchal and socially stratified society. I feel weird to say this but I think this was one of the most “diverse” films I’ve seen, even though all characters were tamil. We see smug brahmins as a lawyer and a judge, muslim characters who treat workers as slaves and other muslim characters who actually beat up the guy who treats workers as slaves, a slightly progressive character who still follow the traditional misogynistic muslim weddings, a guy whose religion is unknown telling a muslim doctor that a police helped him a lot and hence must be a muslim, people of different caste and different classes and how they cross over each others lives. None of these are that relevant to the main story but I’ve never seen a more realistic portrayal and acknowledgement of the diverse population we have.
I’m not sure if I’ve been conditioned to see every male character as a predator in a movie about rape, or if the characters have been written in a brilliant way that I keep doubting every guy that crosses the girls life, but the movie does make us question ourselves the way we see the society. Every character who is introduced as a potential rapist is someone who is easily judged in our society and in the end the actual accused is someone nobody expected. This is not a detective movie where Bala needs to have clues everywhere that leads us to the climax, I see this as a social commentary and how we see people and how their differences affect them.
All the “upper class” characters are written to be emotionless and broken. They take calculated decisions based on what’s right and wrong. Naachiyaar’s husband mansplains police work and morality to Jyothika and she accepts all the patronizing even though she is uptight with everyone in her work. Naachiyaar’s friend, the other police officer, advises her to get the money and “do the right thing” for everyone, Naachiyaar beats up a guy to a pulp, who she thinks is the accused only to later know that he wasn’t the one and all we get is a single comforting dialogue from her friend that it’s okay. And the “lower class” characters are full of emotions and pure hearted. The guy gives Kaathu’s salary to his mother because he thinks Kaathu is irresponsible, Arasi goes in search of Kaathu to an unknown place and innocently keeps asking when the bus will reach the place because she is worried about Kaathu’s safety. These people take decisions based on their emotions and don’t care about morality and societal definitions of right and wrong. It’s the purity in these characters and how that differentiates them from others makes this movie for me.
Thanks to Bala’s continued failure in casting good actors, the few who act decently well shine a lot as always. But I was surprised to see GV Prakash give such a stellar performance in what seems to be a difficult role to carry. Jyothika does what she does best always. Bala’s iconic awkward dialogues continues to be awkward with new people saying it. But I liked how he did not push things to the extreme (except the gruesome climax) which did not always work in his previous films. He has tried to keep it real and it’s surprising to see how an eccentric character like himself is the one closest to reality than other filmmakers currently.