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‘Walter’ Would Have Sounded Thrilling On Paper But Arrives Stillborn

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Cast: Sibiraj, Samuthirakani, Nataraj Subramaniam, Shirin Kanchwala, Sanam Shetty

Director: U Anbarasan

Walter begins with a dedication to the Tamil Nadu Police. While the timing of that is inappropriate, a lot of things either don’t work in U Anbarasan’s film or the film is simply too bland for us to care. It chooses Kumbakonam as its backdrop, ruled by a powerful MLA, Eshwaramoorthi (Bava Chelladurai), who doesn’t flinch from even killing his protege to maintain his kingmaker status. But when your whole film is set in Kumbakonam, why all those shots of the police headquarters opposite Marina in Chennai? That’s just too much deification of the police. Sibiraj gets a feet first, lathi and then face introduction as the police officer Walter, thereby proving that not only is his character’s name borrowed from his father’s film from the 90s, the introduction too has remained within the confines of 90s archetypes. To maintain the Indian police archetype, he beats up protestors with that lathi, which lasts for about 30 seconds before he is ushered into a hospital to meet with Bala (Samuthirakani), a black shirt clad party worker. Bala is there protecting his doctor friend (they are later shown to be as thick as Deva-Surya), who has reportedly killed an 8-year old by inadvertently prescribing the wrong medicine.

One of the few interesting things about Walter is character motivation. We are constantly figuring out who is good and who is bad. Eshwaramoorthi’s ugly face is revealed too soon, frankly, but we keep wondering about Bala. Is he on the right side of the story? A lot of things give us an answer in the affirmative. But why is he so stubborn about his friend, now a murderer? He’s shown to be a man of values but not someone who’d sacrifice them to protect a child killer. The depiction of police officers in Walter follows all the Tamil cinema stereotypes, as upstanding gentlemen who will go to any lengths to protect the people and that’s somehow noble. The larger plot in Walter is about missing infants who mysteriously return after a couple of hours or a day but end up dead soon after. Walter first chases these cases with the seriousness of a sloth forced into a selfie, but the gravity of the situation dawns on him only after the second infant’s case. Anbarasan deliberately wants us confused regarding how this case connects Walter with Bala or his doctor friend, and how serious Eshwaramoorthi is about it when it is discovered that such cases are popping up all over Tamil Nadu.

Walter suffers from another perennial Tamil cinema problem. Why have a female lead if she is inconsequential to the story? Shirin Kanchwala here is not even a lead, she is a female supporting actor who is there for a couple of songs that have no business being part of the film, and to nag Walter just when the film remotely gets going, negating even the little effort they have put into the script. Thankfully there were no painful meet-cutes forcefully inserted into the proceedings, we are straight-up told that Walter and Raji are in a relationship. The story here is captivating enough as a one-line plot but the writing and direction cry out loud for finesse, with obvious information communicated and repeated with words, a shot held for a second longer so that we realise what a great moment it is for the character. It is amazing what nepotism can do for you, Sibiraj probably the Arjun Kapoor of the Tamil film industry, with neither a great filmography nor acting skills to speak of. He is even confused as to what to do with his hands, not just when he is a police officer commanding respect but also in the romantic interludes. Walter would have sounded thrilling on paper, but the entire package arrives stillborn.

The Walter review is a Silverscreen India original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen India and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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