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‘Victim’ movie review: Pa Ranjith excels with ‘Dhammam’, the rest peters out

The mark of a bad anthology is the urgency to employ the various techniques and devices to make it look palatable and complete

The mark of a bad anthology is the urgency to employ the various techniques and devices to make it look palatable and complete

Can a fish differentiate between its predators? Does it know if it’s hunted by a shark, bigger fish or a trap set by a human? In Pa Ranjith’s Dhammam, a school-going girl looks at a freshwater fish from a distance and sings a lullaby: she tells the fish, “Don’t worry, I won’t harm you or put you in sambar. But if you allow me, I will take you and put you on the other side of the water.” Something to this effect.

A fish becomes a larger metaphor on the life of Dalits who own a small pocket of farmland amidst the ones surrounded by dominant caste groups (the drone shots are beautiful. Thamizh Azhagan is the cinematographer). Like this fish, the characters of Dhammam too need to be in a constant state of vigil, in the wake of an attack from a predator.

Unlike his peers, Ranjith is content with telling to story. He crafts a superb novella that is not just political but fits well within a typical screenplay structure, with a conflict and resolution. The “conflict” is when Kema (Poorvadharini) asks Sekar (Kalaiarasan in a white shirt and white veshti) from a dominant caste group, to get down from the ridge to pave the way for her, as she came first. That is not it. Sekar essentially asks Kema to budge and she refuses, even at the request of her father from Ella Guna (Guru Somasundaram).

Egos are bruised and let’s say things get “dirty”. Just like Buddhist tales, Dhammam is a violent story. It doesn’t use violence as a solution but rather a tool of self-defence, while also highlighting how blind-sighted one can get when blood shoots up their heads. This is not a safe film at all. Ranjith says rowthiram pazhagu but not at the cost of humanity.

The mark of a bad anthology is the urgency to employ the various techniques and devices to make it look palatable and complete. In Tamil cinema, filmmakers cannot operate without force-fitting a “twist” into the screenplay, especially in the shorter format. We saw this earlier in navarasa, Putham Puthu Kalai and even in Kutty Story. In victimM Rajesh’s Mirage and Chimbudevan’s Kottai Pakku Vathalum…Mottai Maadi Sitharum rely primarily on cheating the audience rather than on a meaty script. Despite a formidable pair in Thambi Ramiah and Nasser, Chimbudevan’s short is weighed down by a lackluster writing and an equally abysmal filmmaking. There is nothing much to write about Mirage either. Rajesh seriously needs to pull up his socks. In the garb of a mental health condition, he uses Vittalacharya’s techniques at a time when audiences are watching Squid Game in Tamil.

victim

Cast: Amala Paul, Guru Somasundaram, Kalaiarasan, Prasanna, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Natty, Thambi Ramaiah and Nasser

Directors: Pa Ranjith, Venkat Prabhu, Chimbudevan and M Rajesh

Duration: 30 minutes each

Venkat Prabhu’s Confession is somewhat watchable—if that’s any consolation. Written by Manivannan Balasubramaniam and Venkat Prabhu, it is still a smart idea (for a short) and to a large extent, succeeds in achieving what’s on paper. The film is about two main characters [played by Amala Paul and Prasanna] who, in a way, live two different lives—one that is known to the outside world, one that is yet unknown.

Prasanna plays an assassin who is hired for a hit job, while Amala Paul’s Anjana lives in a lavish apartment, has expensive wine, smokes weed and is on a booty call with her NRI husband. What does she do for a living, we are allowed to guess. Her apartment walls are adorned with self-portraits. Is she a model? A budding actress? Is she with IT? Is it too common for people in the IT sector to have self-portraits at home? In contrast, Prasanna’s character is defined by his humbleness: he has dosas and chutney before he leaves for the night shift. I point this out because the camera fixates on the dosa and chutney, perhaps, to imply something. Anyway, the issue with Confession is not the conception, but the spoon-feeding filmmaking. Notice how the film takes more than half of its time outlining Anjana’s character and her lifestyle. Of course, we get a twist towards the end. But because we know so much about Anjana by now, we are left to wonder if this is a cheap ploy or clever writing. It is the former, actually.

victim is currently streaming on SonyLIV

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