Tamil Reviews

Raatchasan Review: A Fine Thriller That Needed Tighter Editing

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Director: Ram Kumar

Cast: Vishnu Vishal, Amala Paul

Composer: Ghibran

Two seemingly disparate streams of labour converge in Ram Kumar’s Raatchasan. At first, the film’s protagonist is a creator. An aspiring film director, he is up to his eyes in research for his debut film – a thriller that will take him to the big leagues. The profession he aspires to join makes him passive. He is in the thick of things but is merely there to observe and record for posterity. A startling career change has him struggling to find his bearings.

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He is a police officer now. A protector, whose job is to engage with life. The time of standing on the sidelines is long gone. It’s time to get dirty.

Vishnu Vishal is in his element as Arun. His is not the typical police officer role. He is a dreamy young man thrust into a profession that requires him to use violence. At first, he does not have the stomach for it. But as the murders pile up, he has to take control. In a way, this is a nightmare scenario for young, aspiring filmmakers. Ram Kumar doesn’t dwell too long on this idea. You get that Arun wanted a different life for himself. But as the situation escalates to alarming proportions and demands someone of his particular skills, he begins to settle in. He hasn’t completely let go of his former self, though.

There’s romance, yes. But as in Mundasupatti, one senses that Ram Kumar wants to rush through the romantic portions – a commercial format is restrictive. He does away with the meet-cute as soon as possible so that he can finally show what he wants to. A serial killer who kidnaps schoolgirls and hacks at them. That perhaps explains why Amala Paul transforms overnight from possible love interest to a glorified assistant in the murder case.

For the director, this is a startling turn from comedy to a serial killer film. He handles it with ease – he is at once the director as well as Arun, the filmmaker-turned-police officer equipped with the necessary knowledge to track down a serial killer who goes on to assume mythic qualities. He is the Raatchasan of the piece. Ram doesn’t give away many details about the killer.

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He is bathed in darkness. You get the sense that the killer is in the shadows, watching and waiting. Ghibran steps in here, creating an eerie background score that makes one vaguely nauseous from fear. Comparisons can be drawn to the Netflix show The Alienist. Both the serial killer from Raatchasan as well as the one from the Netflix show prey on young innocents. Their motives are unknown. The truly scary aspect is the feeling that perhaps one will never know what drives this Raatchasan to defile young women. The conscience demands reasons, as do many of the police officers working on the case. They want to pigeon-hole it into terms that they can be comfortable with. So do we.

And only Arun knows that finding reasons for a mad man’s actions are a waste of time. He kills because he is. Even Ram Kumar falls into this way of thinking. He introduces mental health professionals who profile the serial killer. Sociopath, psychopath. Why does it matter, Arun seems to ask. Young women are at risk. Ram has retained many of the principal players from Mundasupatti for Raatchasan. The director has cast them in roles that are a complete contrast to the ones they have played this far. So Kaali Venkat and Ramadoss are not there to infuse comedy into the proceedings. They are rather staid, and it takes a while to get used to this. But when it does finally grow on you, the effect is impressive. Same can be said of Ram Kumar’s handling of the subject. It is a study in contrast. Where there was sunshine and bright colours (Mundasupatti looked like the South Indian version of Jaipur), he asks cinematographer PV Shankar to drive them out in Raatchasan with the glare of urban life, city lights and darkness. That in itself gives Raatchasan the mood it needs. Gritty, dark and definitely not the sort of film one watches in a lonely Bengaluru theatre.

The film is not without its faults. Ram dumbs down the plot just enough for the audience to catch on. The clues are all there for us to connect the dots. It’s as if he was worried that we wouldn’t make the connection and so there are a couple of explanatory scenes plastered on. Tighter editing would have helped. As it stands, Raatchasan is a fine movie that deserved to release on its own. However, it is sad indeed to see it drowned out in the glowing reviews for Pariyerum Perumal and 96.

*****

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