Like any other anthology that got released during the lockdown, the new one in Netflix presented by Mani Ratnam, Navarasa, is a mixed bag in terms of quality. While the eldest one in the lot, Priyadarshan, came up with the banalest creation, the young gun Karthick Naren impressed me the most with his grip on science fiction content. If you were looking forward to the films of certain filmmakers, you might well be disappointed. But that doesn’t mean that every movie here is not worthy of praise.
Let’s go from the worst to the best. Summer of ’92 featuring Yogi Babu as the leading man is indeed the odd one here. While the other films had this nuanced approach to the emotions it was supposed to convey, Priyadarshan’s movie is way too superficial in its approach. It is based on an actual incident in the life of actor Innocent. But Priyan goes back to his usual idea of assembling jokes rather than developing them organically. Every other film in the anthology was trying to place the emotion in the idea of the movie, while Summer of ’92 just felt like a skit.
Thunintha Pin by Sarjun KM is a victim of bad acting and bad scripting. While I was watching the film, I kind of felt this jingoistic undertone which is present in most of Mani Ratnam’s films, and not to my surprise, the writing credit was given to Mr. Mani Ratnam. The idea here is to shed some light on the Maoist issue that is happening in various parts of our country. The new blood in the force, Vetri, who is all excited about capturing the leader of the Maoist gang, is our central character. But Atharvaa Murali’s terrible performance and an inert screenplay make it an extremely boring movie. Seeing Atharvaa run into the forest with that scream followed by the visual of his wife waiting at the police station made me giggle.
I have heard that one of the earlier short films made by Karthick Subbaraj was about the Eelam movement, and after Jagame Thanthiram, Peace, his segment in Navarasa is yet another tale set in the backdrop of the Eelam fight. The movie wants to be this tale on compassion and struggle, but it was too compact to convey its large-heartedness somewhere. To understand the emotion of the character played by Bobby Simha in the movie, the screenplay needed more breathing space and clarity. But this story tries to take off way too quickly, resulting in a creation that lacked depth.
Inmai by Rathindran R Prasad started off really well. With those bright visuals and charismatic conversations happening between Parvathy Thiruvothu and Siddharth, there was an immediate connection with the story. But then the film started to go behind the backstory of the female character. Even though it wasn’t that amusing, the spooky Djinn concept in the narrative kept the story alive. But as the story progressed, it became a mere revenge story, and I really hoped the reverse had happened on a treatment level. Despite having solid actors and an interesting premise, Inmai couldn’t excite you after a point.
Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru, perhaps the most anticipated film among the nine films as it marked the comeback of Gautham Menon and Suriya after a really long time, is like a mixture of the old and new Gautham Menon. The conversations happening between Kamal and Nethra in the movie are really fun to watch. Suriya still has that romantic charm in him and the on-screen chemistry, largely due to the conversations, looks fun. But much like Gautham’s recent films, the ending feels pretty hasty. I get the fact that he is going after this idea that defining love is difficult. But this abruptness in the way the story gets a closure (or the lack of closure) was so unconvincing. The lip-smacking cool girl portrayal of Prayaga Rose Martin was a bit uneven.
Edhiri by Bejoy Nambiar is like any other Bejoy Nambiar film; you know it has its share of issues, but there is an emotional connection somewhere. Edhiri is built around the emotion of compassion, and it looks at the idea of forgiveness and regrets from a different perspective. Bejoy’s movie talks about the cause of a certain action from a deeper point of view. When something tragic happens, it’s a very black and white thing for most people. But when you deep dive into the reasons behind some of the impulsive hyper reactions, everything enters that morally grey space. I think for Vijay Sethupathi, the movie was a cakewalk. It was Revathy and Prakash Raj who scored in this movie with whatever minimal screen time they had.
Roudhram, the Arvind Swami directorial, was a really impressive tale. The basic concept isn’t that amusing for sure. And Swami keeps you guessing about a possible reveal at the very end of the movie. Even though that becomes guessable after a point, what was fascinating to see was the way he managed to fool the viewer with two parallel narratives. You can’t even call it a twist. But when it gets revealed, the film suddenly becomes so much about that emotion and those characters. Roudhram was one of those movies where you would feel like appreciating the craft once you backtrack the whole film.
Vasanth’s Payasam is a very raw and genuine look at human insecurities and envy. The movie starring Delhi Ganesh takes its own sweet time to show us the character in detail. Without going into any flashback sequences, Vasanth shows us how the Subbu character had earned respect for himself. But the focus of the movie is on emotion, and thus he shows us how this envy started. It is almost like watching a movie from the antagonist’s perspective. There are so many selfish layers in human nature that bring out evil, and Payasam explored those layers very effectively.
My personal favorite among the nine movies in the series was Project Agni by Karthick Naren. And the primary reason for that was the fact that he somewhere showed a much sophisticated yet fictional story with a lot of conviction. The film isn’t a visual effects extravaganza. The concept was intriguing, and the conversation we see in the movie felt very authentic. Usually, in science fiction movies, there is this effort to spoon-feed the viewer by explaining the concept on an extremely basic level and then enhance it with all the visual gimmicks. Karthick Naren is not trying to make it too simplistic. He is asking the viewer to make some effort to understand the conversation, and when it comes to the demonstration, he keeps it very minimal. There is a flow in the way the story unfolds through the conversations of the two main characters, and Arvind Swamy and Prasanna were really good at it.
The quality of the movies in this anthology series is uneven. If I have to pick a name here, it would be Mr. Arvind Swamy. The movie in which he acted had a terrific concept at its center, and he then surprised me as a director with a cleverly executed movie that had an unsurprising story. The major disappointment was that there were multiple movies that had the potential to be impactful but failed to utilize their premises fully.
The movie in which Arvind Swamy acted had a terrific concept at its center, and he then surprised me as a director with a cleverly executed movie that had an unsurprising story.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended