Rarely have I heard a film’s leading man dismissed with such exquisite contempt: “Mudhugelumbu illadha oru nallavan!” (A spineless saint!) Part of the powerlessness we sense in the character – a sub-inspector named Sathya – is surely due to the ineffectiveness of the actor, a newcomer named Vettri. He’s terribly stiff. There’s no strength, no confidence. It seems to take him effort just to part his lips and say his lines. But luckily, the story plays on this very (lack of) quality. The first time we see Sathya as a grown-up, it’s the voice you notice, the meekness with which he answers a superior. One gets the feeling Vettri didn’t have to act. He just had to be.
The director, Sri Ganesh, was an assistant of Mysskin, and you can sense a similar love for formal (and yes, showy) rigour. A superbly constructed canteen scene involving a slow zoom-in/zoom-out – locating a man in this world, and then slowly isolating him through a close-up, as the others fall off the frame, then bringing them back (the shots linger just an extra beat or two) – is right out of the Mysskin playbook. As is the choreography in the scene involving four people, two of them with guns, in a locked room. As is the hat tip to Eastern cinema. The story is adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog.
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