Movie review: India’s Oscar entry Visaaranai shows realism at its harshest best
Premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Visaaranai (Interrogation) is a power-packed film about police high-handedness on four hapless daily-wage earning labourers who have make Andhra Pradesh their home.
Cast: Dinesh, Murugadoss, Kishore, Samuthirakani
National Award-winning Tamil film Visaaranai, directed by filmmaker Vetrimaaran, will be India’s official entry to the Oscars in 2017. It will feature in the Foreign Language Film category. Here is the film’s review which was first published on February 05, 2016.
Films about police brutality have been a hit with the masses, harassed and humiliated as they are by the men in khaki. And this was one important reason why a movie like Mohanlal starrer Drishyam in Malayalam and its Tamil remake, Kamal Haasan starrer Papanasam were applauded and appreciated. I saw how an essentially Tamil audience went into raptures every time Mohanlal’s character outwitted the cops.
Vetrimaaran’s Visaaranai, coming as it does in a climate such as this, is bound to strike a chord with the ticket-paying public. Premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Visaaranai or Interrogation is a power-packed work about police high-handedness on four hapless Tamil daily-wage earning labourers who have made the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh their home. In fact, they do not even have a hut, a makeshift tent in a public park serving as one.
Based on the true and horrific experience of a Coimbatore-based autorickshaw driver, M Chandra Kumar -- who wrote a book, Lock Up, narrating his nightmarish 13 days in a small prison cell in Andhra Pradesh -- Visaaranai veers though a bit in its plot.
While Kumar was never told what his crime was, Pandi (Dinesh) in the film and his other friends -- who are picked up the police one morning outside the provision store in Nellore where they work-- are forced to confess to a theft they did not commit.
There are gruesomely bloody scenes of custodial torture, which the cops have to resort to, because they are under pressure to solve a robbery case in a high-ranking bureaucrat’s house. Finally, the four “confess” to the crime, and in the meantime, a special police force from Tamil Nadu, led by Murugavel (Samuthirakani), arrives at the Nellore police station.
Being a Tamil, Murugavel empathises with the four workers and takes them back to Tamil Nadu -- where unfortunately they get trapped in a web of intrigue spun by corrupt policemen and politicians.
Watch Visaaranai trailer here:
Set to fine unobtrusive music by GV Prakash, the Indian version of Visaaranai at 117 minutes is slightly longer than what was screened at Venice, 108 minutes. With razor-sharp dialogues, neat direction and wonderfully realistic performances (Samuthirakani and Dinesh in particular), Visaaranai is packed with bruised bodies bloodied with the baton and other forms of terrifying third-degree methods.
Yes, this is reality at its harshest best, and Vetrimaaran’s work may not be suitable for a popcorn-munching, Coke-sipping audience used to colour and gloss, song and dance. But for a serious viewer of cinema, Visaaranai is a great work whose imagery will provoke him or her to mull over all that is seriously wrong with our country.