“54321.”… In-your-face style cannot compensate for hollow writing

Posted on August 26, 2016


Spoilers ahead…

Director Raghavendra Prasad likes gimmicks. His first film is called 54321. Why? Because it’s about… 5 people, 4 lifestyles, 3 murders, 2 hours, 1 act of revenge. His filmmaking is equally flashy. A recurring trope is the freeze frame presented as a three-dimensional space, through which the camera “travels” in order to set up the flashbacks. (The cinematography is by Banu Murugan. There’s some good night-time camerawork, especially in confined spaces.) Every action – even quiet ones like a coffin being lowered into the ground – is underscored by high-decibel background music that sounds as if composer Joshua Sridhar switched on a mixie after dropping a bunch of Harris Jayaraj scores into it. The actors are overemphatic – they have to be, to compete with everything around them. Events are staged with the deliberateness of a straining-for-greatness stage play – we’re meant to notice every head turn, every foot put forward. (The camera stoops to show the shoe turning slowly.) At midpoint, when a finger is severed, it flies through the air and freezes – it becomes the first “I” of the text “Intermission.”

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Wanting to show off isn’t necessarily bad. But the problem with 54321 is that this bravura isn’t matched by the writing. The fascinatingly twisty story gets going when Vikram (Shabeer) takes Vinoth (Aarvin GR) and his wife (Pavithra Gowda) prisoner. The reason has to do with that old adage about there being evil in all of us – we just need that nudge. But we never really enter the film, we’re never really involved in the plight of these people (including a thief played by Jayakumar). They needed more detailing than we get from the generic flashbacks – they have no inner life, nothing beyond how they ended up in this room. Vikram, especially, needed more texture. (We get… OCD as a possible cause for his behaviour!) 54321 ends with a note from the director about the films that influenced him. He quotes Babel (probably for the fragmentary narrative), Oldboy (probably for the sadism), the Quentin Tarantino oeuvre (probably for their… I’m really not sure), and Aalavandhan, from which we get a hill-station flashback with two little boys. (The boy who plays the young Vikram is terrific.) But for all its problems, that Kamal Haasan starrer gave us a bogeyman from our worst nightmares. This film’s villain just makes you keep glancing at your watch.


  • Aalavandhan = see here

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Posted in: Cinema: Tamil