Nerkonda Paarvai: How H Vinoth's commercialised version of Pink made the source material more accessible to Tamil audiences
A film like Nerkonda Paarvai needed a huge star like Ajith, for the message it conveys has the ability to reach out to audiences across all centres.
From time immemorial in Tamil cinema, very few actors have been brave enough to step down from their starry avatars once in a while and do a film that shuns any preconceived notions about their image. While Kamal Haasan has been long known for his experimental films, others have only tasted moderate success with their off-beat outings, most of which come with certain inhibitions. After Superstar Rajinikanth’s decision to work with director Pa. Ranjith on two occasions (Kabali and Kaala), one announcement that was at the cynosure of all eyes was Ajith’s choice to remake the Bollywood courtroom drama Pink with the two-film-old director H Vinoth, who made everyone sit up and take notice of his work in the highly acclaimed investigative thriller Theeran Adhigaaran Ondru.
While Amitabh Bachchan pulled off the role of advocate Deepak Sehgal with consummate ease, director Vinoth had to bring certain changes to the character for a star like Ajith, who is more than twenty years younger than Big B in real life and is at the peak of his career right now. Moreover, fans who have been practicing years of cutout culture for their star wouldn’t immediately come into terms with a character who isn’t being the traditional larger-than-life hero onscreen. Yes, Ajith was the savior here, but unlike most of his other films, he wasn’t going to beat everyone to a pulp or mouth punch dialogues. Bharath Subramaniam (Ajith in Nerkonda Paarvai) had to recite pages and pages of courtroom arguments, which meant that he would have to bring out his best within a narrowed space. Ultimately, the onus was on director Vinoth to pull the right strings, and thankfully so, he extracted the best out of Ajith, making Nerkonda Paarvai one of his career-best performances.
Director Vinoth sets the record straight with the film's opening scene which clearly indicates audiences that they are going to watch a slightly commercialised version of Pink. While Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury's original version dived into the story from the first frame, Nerkonda Paarvai opened with an EDM-AV track featuring a guest appearance from Kalki Koechlin and introducing Shraddha Srinath (Taapsee's role) as one of the dancers.
Nerkonda Paarvai also clearly understood the difference between the star and the actor in Ajith, giving the film a perfect blend of his massy image, space to showcase his acting potential in full, and also a well-staged pre-interval action sequence that gave the fans something to cheer for. By reducing the age of Amitabh Bachchan’s character by a decade, Bharath Subramaniam (Ajith) is a now a victim to acute bipolar disorder, suffering from mental depression due to the unfortunate demise of his wife (Vidya Balan). With a handful of carefully constructed twenty-eight minutes of additional runtime compared to the original, director Vinoth has tailored a mainstream version of Pink to make the source material more accessible and to reach out to Ajith's massive fanbase. For example, the cross interrogation scene (Superwoman?) between the police inspector and Bharath Subramaniam is slightly exaggerated here to evoke more laughter. Even the seven-minute-long pre-interval fight sequence is preceded by a nice buildup and ends with a fine masala moment. The flashback portion (including a song) involving Vidya Balan and Ajith was the only let down in the film because it evidently stuck out like a sore thumb.
While the first half played out like a translated version of Pink, Vinoth succeeded in the second half with his powerful, razor-sharp dialogues that were localised and more impactful than the original. There is a brighter shade of open-mindedness here, with Vinoth walking the extra mile to discuss the delicate topics of consent, victim shaming, sexual violence, and gender equality eloquently. It is a strong sign of the brave writer in him who addresses a plethora of issues faced by modern Indian women with progressive lines and pop culture references.
The way Vinoth modified Deepak Sehgal as Bharath Subramaniyam to suit the sensibilities of Tamil audiences is laudable. Ajith's majestic screen presence, complemented by his strong baritone voice, gives life to Vinoth's compelling lines. But, Nerkonda Paarvai fell short of Pink in terms of the casting that sits around Ajith. Compared to the mighty contributions from Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Piyush Mishra in the original, the remake doesn’t bring you rock-solid performances from the supporting cast. While Shraddha Srinath tries to do full justice to Taapsee's role, the dubbing lets her down in a few crucial sequences. While Abirami Venkatachalam’s performance was not up to the mark, Rangaraj Pandey who reprised the role of Piyush Mishra brought his sarcastic shades to the character.
A film like Nerkonda Paarvai needed a huge star like Ajith, for the message it conveys has the ability to reach out to audiences across all centres. Director Vinoth has stayed true to the core of the original and delivered a fine remake with some solid additions to the table.
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