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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Vetrimaaran's Visaaranai takes a brutal look at police atrocity

Vetrimaaran's Visaaranai is based on a book called Lock Up by Coimbatore-based autorickshaw driver, Chandra Kumar and deals with police brutality and corruption in the Indian system.

world-cinema Updated: Sep 13, 2015 17:45 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times
Vetrimaaran's Visaaranai is based on a book called Lock Up by Coimbatore-based autorickshaw driver Chandra Kumar.
Vetrimaaran's Visaaranai is based on a book called Lock Up by Coimbatore-based autorickshaw driver Chandra Kumar.( )

Vetrimaaran's Visaaranai in Tamil -- which screened on Wednesday night in the Orizzonti or New Horizons section of the ongoing Venice Film Festival -- proved that the director had begun to look beyond Dhanush. Rajinikanth's son-in-law acted in the first two of Vetrimaaran's movies, Polladhavan and Aadukalam. The last had a fascinating subject -- rooster fight. It is another thing that Vetrimaaran digressed from this core issue, taking away the power from the punch.

While he is planning a film on pigeon racing (a novel theme in Indian cinema), he did the Venice screener, Visaaranai, a violent take on police brutality and corruption that sees poor innocent men losing their lives in utterly needless conflicts which cops have with the rich and the politically powerful.

With some extremely good actors like Samuthirakani (who plays a police inspector), Dinesh Ravi, Murugadoss and Anandhi enriching the narrative, Visaaranai or interrogation is based on the real story of a 53-year-old Coimbatore-based autorickshaw driver, Chandra Kumar. When is he not driving his rickshaw, he writes, and his first book, Lock-Up, which was published in 2006 was so inspirational that Vetrimaaran picked it up to weave the ruthless story of Visaaranai.

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Chandra Kumar says that many years ago, he and his two friends were locked up in a tiny cell in Guntur for 13 days for no apparent reason and tortured. His nightmarish experiences translated into Lock-Up.

Watch Visaaranai trailer here:

The movie paints the disturbing picture of three daily Tamil-speaking wage earners in Andhra Pradesh's Guntur (Ravi and Murugadoss among them) who are taken into custody by a police force which is compelled to solve a theft in the house of a top-ranking civil servant. The three men are stripped to their waist and beaten in the most gruesome manner to elicit a confession. With language as a formidable barrier, the men, who do not speak Telugu, are even more handicapped. Bewildered and wounded beyond endurance, they eventually find a samaritan in Samuthirakani's character, who, despite his moral high ground, finds himself trapped in a web of political deceit and money power.

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At 106 minutes, Vetrimaaran's work is a delight to savour, given the kind of song-and-dance extravaganzas one is forced to watch in Tamil cinema. However, the violence goes overboard and is almost repulsive to watch, but the director might quip that he could show the lack of humanity of the police force only through such sordid sadism.

A scene from Visaaranai.

Visaaranai might well have a good run in the festival circuit, Venice opening that account, but can only hope for limited theatrical appeal in Chennai and elsewhere in India.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Venice Film Festival.)

First Published: Sep 10, 2015 16:44 IST