– Mani Prabhu
It’s not every Friday that you walk into the theatres and find yourself hearing the lead-lady spell out the smoking and alcohol clause for you. It’s just a small thing. But the feeling that it seeds in your head is a good one. Maybe, it’s not just another Friday. You suddenly sense a hunch. You smile when it later hits you that it’s not a Friday at all. But, when Sshivada opens Rohin’s Venkatesan’s debut film Adhey Kangal with an assertive reading of the disclaimer-drill, it’s true that you sit up, surprised. A similar feeling would hit you more than once over the next one twenty minutes, but for now, let’s talk about the protagonist – the man behind the tagline ‘To see what you never saw’ – for that’s whom Rohin bases his title interpretation on.
But believe me, it’s not an easy task – to discuss the guy – a blind chef forced into a con quagmire – without spoiling things for the first-time beholder. Let’s just say that he is visually-impaired, and is interestingly visualized on paper. But the same doesn’t translate on screen, more so in the initial stretches. We are lead to believe that he is a quick thinker. We get portions where he falls for a girl. But these are all unbelievably flat. We never get inside his head. These sequences in the first act, where Rohin lays the platform for an eventful plot-point, without giving us too much to chew on, definitely seem artificial and rushed.
And Kalaiarasan’s histrionics don’t help. He might have nailed it in Madras, but here as a self-made man who loses sight in his early teenage, he seems completely lost. But before any real damage is done, the film flings into the second act. And this is where, Rohin scores as a writer. He pitches a few happenings where things get hunky dory and attempts to hold on to the suspense. We are not totally hooked. But, the what-could-be’s keep us watching. As with most short-film makers taking the plunge, Rohin tries to stretch the investigation procedural way beyond its tense and comic potential. Bala Saravanan (playing a refreshingly grounded cop) is hilarious in many an instance, but the mood of the thriller in Rohin’s mind definitely goes for a toss.
And so we get to the half way point, with the feeling that things could have been tauter. If you had lived on a diet of crime thrillers, by now you start seeing the inevitable, and Rohin’s script doesn’t really pull any rugs underneath. But, the anticipatory tension is still there, but unlike Karthik Naren’s recent film, the tension is more about the writing failing to squash the obvious guesses. But Rohin resolutely holds on with some decent writing, which manages to engage, despite the lingering predictability. And whenever you feel like sighing “I knew it”, Sshivada shuts you up with a performance worthy of a wolf-whistle. And I believe, Ghibran would too, when he sees his Thandira song play out this way on-screen, relentlessly bursting masala-movie-magic myths, not once, but several times in the last twenty minutes. I couldn’t stop smiling.
A tad overlong? Yes. Way too convenient? Certainly. Easily foreseeable, letting us play detective at spinal level? Indeed. But Rohin’s debut film is, without doubt, quite a conceited piece of conflict that works in interesting ways despite the mounting flaws. That clever pun over the adage ‘Love is blind’. That gritty knot that subtly warps itself round the perspective of ‘sight’. In the never-ending quest for human intimacy, do we really see what we are supposed to see? I am tempted to give it to the man just for this log-line.