Andhagaaram movie review: An interesting thriller that is bogged down by tiresome self-actualisation
Soon enough, Andhagaaram gets tiresome. The details unravel painfully slowly, and in excruciating little bursts.
If there is one thing going for Andhagaaram, it’s the suspense. Until the fag end of the nearly 3 hour-long film, I had no clue what’s going on. That’s a good thing. But I didn’t care either. Therein lies the problem.
Vignarajan’s Andhagaaram is the story of three men: A psychiatrist who has lost everything to a freak accident, a blind librarian in need of money, and a defeatist ex-cricketer. Each of them is in a dark place in their life — Andhagaaram in Tamil means darkness — and their self-actualisation is to come from finding their light.
Conceptually, Andhagaaram could have been an interesting film. In fact, Vignarajan goes a long way in establishing his vision. The characters are deliberately under-defined, picked out from strange corners of a crowded city. Selvam, the librarian, comes from a family of psychic mediums. His uncle appears to be hiding from the law. Vinod, the ex-cricketer, is a dejected loner, with a voice that is crying for some Vicks. Dr. Indran, the psychiatrist, walks around as if he’s at the edge of a meltdown himself.
Much of the film’s milieu adds to this vision — the cricketer’s kitschy home, the librarian’s cassette recordings, the run-down cinema theatre and so on. The film, overall, is gloomy, reminding me of a Chennai under a cyclone warning, as it is today. Because any other time of the year, in this city, there would be more light, even behind backout curtains. And then there are the punctuations of high drama scenes such as the pencil nib breaking as someone writes, with sparkles of graphite filling the air in slow motion, for instance. It is almost as if the makers are giving us a moment to observe their genius. Observe I did. Enjoying it, however, is in the eyes of the beholder.
It would be unfair to accuse the filmmakers of not having put enough thought into the film. They clearly have. Yet, somehow, within an hour into the film, I found myself utterly restless, tempted to hit the forward button, worried about my professional integrity as a reviewer if I did so more than the fact that I wasn’t particularly drawn to the film.
Soon enough, Andhagaaram gets tiresome. The details unravel painfully slowly, and in excruciating little bursts. The characters become one-note, making it practically impossible to relate to any of them. For a supernatural thriller, it isn’t traditional, there are no jump scares, no ghost stereotypes. In fact, it is more like Pawan Kumar’s U-Turn (2016) than your standard horror affair — a film with convenient closure.
In a sense, Andhagaaram is a perfect Netflix film, or as Kyle Chayka recently wrote in the New Yorker, an “ambient” film. The music will tell you when to look up from your second screen, the ringing of the telephone will identify the film’s dramatic rhythm, the climax will patiently explain the entire film in 3-5 minutes, and you wouldn’t feel guilty for not paying attention.
In an industry that falls back on tried-and-tested ideas and hero-build up, Andhagaaram is a welcome anomaly. The novelty, though, wears off pretty soon.
Andhagaaram is currently streaming on Netflix India.
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