Psycho-thrillers in Tamil cinema are so rare, they’re special. The memorable ones create confusing internal monologues for the viewer. Like, “This guy is clearly messed up. But, why am I feeling bad for him?” The focus is on the troubled mind of the protagonist. What makes him think that way? What’s he going to do next? If the troubled one is the antagonist, we wait with baited breath as the hero deciphers the mystery behind this complex character. In most good films, that is a tough job.
Sawaari has a premise that is typical to psycho thrillers. A series of murders. The police are left scratching their heads. A young dapper police officer, Solomon (Benito), is given the responsibility of nabbing the killer. The killer seems to like car rides on the highway. He asks people for a lift, gets in the car, and shoots them. Meanwhile, Ravi (Karthik Yogi), an innocent driver, has to drop an MLA’s car at his residence, far from Chennai. Solomon and Ravi meet on the highway, and they have company – the psycho killer himself. How the journey ends for the trio is the crux of the story.
The beauty of psycho thrillers lies in the slow unravelling of the mentally unstable character’s complex past. Why was Dileep from Sigappu Rojakkal filled with misogyny? What actually went inside Amudhan and Ilamaran’s minds in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyadu? Their peculiar modus operandi, the fascinating reason behind it, the beauty of the macabre. This is exactly where Sawaari is lacking. The filmmakers want us to remember that the killer is a psycho. Thus, the word is drilled into our heads. You walk out of the theatre unable to remember the name of the killer. He was just…’Psycho’.
What made him a psycho? We do not know. Policemen raid his home and find weird possessions. Vintage art, exquisite weaponry, a big jar of chocolates. No explanations. All we see is a lanky man who has an urge to kill. Conveniently, he leaves a book lying around at home. It has pictures of all the people he has killed. This psycho isn’t bright.
The police guy isn’t terribly bright either. The killer kills in front of him, then pleads his innocence with a reason so juvenile, that it shouldn’t take an investigative brain to dismiss it. Solomon is convinced in seconds.
Technically, it is Vishal Chandrashekar who shines. His BGM was stellar in Jil Jung Juk. He also manages to salvage Sawaari with his upbeat music. Director Guhan Senniappan made many short films before Sawaari and it’s evident in his approach here. The film maintains a serious tone, but a light-hearted Ravi (Karthik Yogi) makes funny quips and gives the audience a chance to laugh, or smirk, or just breathe. Overall though, the result is a mishmash of unmemorable dialogues.
The cinematography seems purposely tedious. Most of the shots are hand-held, creating a claustrophobic sense of being inside a 1990 Contessa. The camera angles feel jerky and amateurish.
As far as performances go, Karthik Yogi creates the most sympathy with his expressions and antics as Ravi, the harmless man stuck in a maze. If only he had better dialogues to work with.
In this ‘Sawaari’, the audience is taken for a ride, albeit a complex one. If only the director had paid more attention to character detail. If only the focus wasn’t on creating tedious knots for them. Sawaari is exactly like that overly long road trip, which leaves you restless, and craving fresh air and open spaces.
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