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Andhaghaaram review: An atmospheric thriller that has more highs than lows

Andhaghaaram is a fairly impressive debut attempt by director Vignarajan

Source: SIFY

By: Shrikanth Venkatesh

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Tuesday 01 December 2020

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Movie Title

Andhaghaaram review: An atmospheric thriller that has more highs than lows

Director

V Vignarajan

Star Cast

Vinoth Kishan, Arjun Das, Kumar Natarajan, Pooja Ramachandran, Misha Ghoshal

Andhaghaaram (Darkness), Vignarajan’s directorial debut that has released on Netflix, opens with a stream of obscure images. There is a murder, a suicide attempt, an ominous book and an old telephone instrument that’s shown flung out on the beach. In line with the film’s title, we are kept in the dark about the import of these images, even as the reels play out in black and white.

As the colour slowly seeps back into the visuals, more light is thrown on the opening reel’s context. We are introduced to the lead characters one by one. First there’s Selvam (Vinoth Kishan), a visually challenged librarian who’s desperately looking for funds to get a kidney ailment treated. Selvam is also an occulist or medium who practices the art of interacting with spirits. Then there’s Vinod (Arjun Das), a cricket coach. He’s been in an unpleasant incident involving a close friend and this has thrown his life into desolation and depression. Finally, there’s Indran, a psychiatric doctor who’s lost his family and voice to a brutal attack by one of his own patients.

What connects these characters together forms the underlying story of this film. But before that, Andhaghaaram is foremost a visual treat. And its not just the result of Edwin Sakay’s aesthetically striking colour scheme and cinematography or Rembon Balraj’s art direction. Some of the graphics are actually top notch too, something even director Shankar (whose protégé Atlee has produced this film) would be proud of. The reference to Shankar is interesting on more levels. One of the scenes in the film is eerily reminiscent of Shankar’s 2.0 where mobile phones went on a killing rampage. Here, we see an old haunted rotary phone get in on the act, strangulating a character in a chilling sequence.

Andhaghaaram is an atmospheric film that almost has a visceral quality about it. And unlike some recent films in this genre (Kaali Khuhi, I’m looking at you), this is not achieved merely through the over-use of fog machines on the set. There is a genuine ethereal feel here and you sense the director has crafted this organically frame by frame, helped admirably by Pradeep’s reverberating score. At 171 minutes, the film’s rather lengthy run time was definitely a gamble, but you sense this was intentional and another tactic to achieve this lived-in quality.

To the credit of the director, there are no dull moments over the course of this elaborate running time. The screenplay has some surprises, the non linearity in the storyline being the key one (Sathyaraj Natarajan with some terrific edit work). There are no earth shattering twists, but key reveals and vibrant dialogues hold the film’s tempo together. In fact, I was a little sad this film couldn’t get a theatrical release. Some scenes and dialogues, like the one where Vinod professes to have killed off a ‘ghost’ with a ‘pull shot’ or when he gives a cheeky retort to a technician who helps repair his telephone instrument, would surely have been received with rousing cheers and hoots in a theatre. Arjun Das and Vinoth Kishan are solid with their acting. While Arjun’s character portrayal is on edge and full of intensity, Vinoth Kishan plays his with a sense of contrasting calmness and tranquillity, to complement Arjun brilliantly on screen.

But all this apart, there is something that stops Andhaghaaram from being a great film. And you sense this is mainly on account of a rather weak storyline. You find some key plot points a little difficult to buy, like for instance a character deciding to nick a book from a library setting off a major chain of events. We could generally have used more background information on the lead characters, I felt. While Vignarajan has proven his screenplay writing mettle and visual acumen with this film, story development is an area he can work more on. Andhaghaaram is a fairly impressive debut attempt. In spite of some flaws, it does give us reasons to look forward to the director’s next ventures. 

Shrikanth is a Chartered Accountant, who keenly follows and writes about cinema when he is not crunching numbers or balancing ledgers! You can find more of his work at Non Linear Plot

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