Pavithra Srinivasan reviews the Tamil film, Yuddham Sei. Post YOUR reviews here!
Director Mysskin has always had his own distinctive style when it comes to film-making. His stories are deceptively simple, yet the screenplay works with the camera to produce a neatly choreographed dance, where shots are never revealed fully, and you're guessing the players and the game itself, until the last minute.
After Nandhalala, he has come out with Yuddham Sei (Wage War) produced by Kalpathi S Agoram. This time, he takes up the meaty tale of a murder mystery, and has had a blast unraveling the whodunit. Such genres are practically untouched in Tamil cinema, and he deserves kudos for taking it up.
In typical Mysskin fashion, things start out slowly with a mysterious edge. You've a young girl trying to get a ride at night, in the pouring rain. The auto she asks doesn't budge, and she moves away only to have the auto-driver run after her.
Cut to the entrance of the story's hero, J Krishnamurthy, aka JK (Cheran), a fatigued CBCID officer who's on the verge of handing in his resignation, tortured by his sister's disappearance, a case he's been investigating without result for three months. His superior Chandramouli refuses to accept his resignation. He instead presents to him a desperate situation: random cardboard boxes are discovered all over the city, with severed hands in them. The forensic team swarms all over it.
JK accepts the case unwillingly, going over it with a fine toothcomb, roping in the expertise of Judas Iscariot (Jayaprakash), the pathologist who performs the post-mortems and delivers his verdict. He and JK have been long-term associates, and it shows in their easy conversation, sprinkled with Judas's sarcastic quotes from Jiddu Krishnamurthy.
In the meantime, more severed hands are found, even as young girls begin to disappear around the city. The two cases in tandem confuse the police, even as JK painstakingly analyses evidence, follows leads, questions suspects and finds out that somehow, there must be a relation between the two. Twists are revealed one by one, characters change colour conversations are dripping with hidden meanings. JK perseveres, going through knife-fights like a pro and edges closer and closer to the truth.
This time around, Mysskin has decided to go for a cross between Agatha Christie's tantalizing mysteries and Hollywood's slick thrillers. Scenes are seemingly puzzling until the final revelation. Police procedures are painstakingly re-created with excellent eye for detail and the cast of characters stays true to form. If you're a real thriller enthusiast, you can see clues pointing to the eventual murderer all over the first half. And truth be told, the first half unfolds grippingly; the tension that mounts is perfect and you're left with a feeling of anticipation.
Mysskin also has a flair for the dramatic. It starts off with Cheran's knife-fight which, despite being choreographed beautifully, rather yanks you out of the realistic feel. There's a touch of Tarantino in the visual poetry that characterises the violence. And there's plenty of "world cinema" influence, especially in the climax.
Unfortunately, it's this that doesn't quite work. Yes, you're invested in the principal characters by this time, and you understand that the director is trying to infuse a sense of drama, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. The body language appears forced, and doesn't quite gel with the supremely realistic feel of the movie. The two seem to stand apart, and don't quite manage to convince you. The plot too, loses pace in the second half; there are no surprises here. You know what's coming, and that rather diffuses the tension that the first half develops so well.
For Cheran, this really is a role right up his alley. He can be as brooding, wistful and on the verge of depression as he pleases, and he does so with style. Thankfully, the crying jags are reduced to just one instance, and here, he manages to pull it off without over-acting.
Dipa Shah, as the raw aide is convincing. And Jayaprakash has had a ball. His wry pronunciations and casual body language showcase the artist he is. Kudos to him. But it's really Y Gee Mahendra and Lakshmi Ramakrishna who are surprising.
In any Mysskin film, the camera and music play as important roles as humans themselves and this one is no different. Sathya has performed visual gymnastics with it. Mention must certainly be made of K, the composer, who's given a background score that's mature, convincing, and actually raises goose-pimples at certain points. Even better is the way he uses silence effectively.
Director Ameer has earned a unique "distinction" as someone who makes an appearance in just one song, and dances away with Neetu Chandra for the lone kuthu number which, you feel Mysskin could have done without.
Yuddham Sei may have its flaws, but Mysskin's neat touches of situational humour, clever twists in the first half and convincing characters make this a neat film, if not a classic.