A three-hour-long thriller with heavyweight thrills in every new sequence. Ramkumar holds our attention with an absolutely focused narration that has no deviations whatsoever. Even typical commercial elements that could have easily become deviations aren’t delved into, and are used sparingly. This results in us taking these elements a bit seriously than we usually would. A heroine who feels like the “woman in his life” rather than a… Heroine. A sister who is not the embodiment of all the cuteness in the world, but someone who is just a real teenager. I like how these strokes of reality exist in a typically Tamil narrative — An irresistibly sincere hero, a death in the family, a revelation through the loved one, an emotional backstory for the villain, etc. But all these tropes are treated in a very sensible and grounded manner, without touching the bar of melodrama. One misstep here is the entire arc of the lady inspector, which does feel overdone and gets a tad bit annoying. Though I’ll also have to say that it depends on your tolerance.

The way the film travels, feels very organic. There are coincidences for sure, but they are masked by momentary thrills. This happens throughout the film and at a point I stopped thinking of how we’d reached the current spot we are in. This is also how a thriller can be manipulative – making you forget how it got to a certain point by selling the chills alone. Ramkumar capitalises on the same and makes a rather basic serial-killer-on-the-run plot work efficiently.

An aspiring film director and “pyscho killer” aficionado becomes a cop due to unforeseen circumstances, and gets to work on a psycho killer case. I wish they had used the novelty of this premise further through the modus operandi. The fact that he approaches a music composer for help with a lead, and has beaten up junior artists in the past, are the only two nods to his film background while solving the case as a cop.

The villain is my biggest issue here. I wish the film had maintained its production value without aiming for the ambitious makeup job. The entire aesthetic of the villain – right from his look to the lighting at his place – has a proper pulp novel feel to it, but it isn’t really one for today’s cinematic sensibility (which the film follows until this point). Furthermore, it looks like it is heading into a complex psychological territory for the way it refers to the mental avenues of psycho killers. But the fact that we get a backstory making it a revenge tale, is rather underwhelming. Once the motivation is shown to be springing from a feeling of vengeance, the actual workings of his mind, and drive to kill, take a back seat. There’s another odd thing about this whole backstory. The guy has a condition and is mocked at for being impotent. This is supposed to create sympathy for the character, but the same is used by the hero to mentally break the former in the climax. This feels morally jarring to me, as I didn’t know who to root for here. I couldn’t cheer for the hero’s smarts as he says “mottai”, when just a while ago I was made to feel for the villain to have gone through such shaming. He’s a sick killer, yes, but wasn’t one back then, right?

All the thematic flaws aside, the screenplay is terrific with its grip on the proceedings. San Lokesh, the editor, pitches in with some really smart callbacks and sharp cuts to Ghibran’s chilling beats. Ghibran returns to loud scoring after a solid outing with Theeran last year, and he adds invaluable thrills to the smallest of events. He starts off with the very first scene and goes on a rampage of thrilling pieces. His score is as engaging as the film. They complement each other, but he stands out too, without being a distraction.

Ramkumar’s second film is a firm entry to the hall-of-fame for the genre in Tamil cinema, an improvement over his first (Mundasupatti, which I enjoyed too). I also have to admire how he’s packaged this film for our audience, infusing Tamil tropes with the genre’s universal appeal. That’s one solid balancing act there.


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