When fear becomes paranoia…
It takes time to convince you; to convince that it is not happening to the characters on screen but to you. Vetrimaaran does that nonchalantly in less than two hours with a gritty and nerve-racking tale that succeeds not in just hanging a sordid picture of the legal system on your walls but also seeding a wave of paranoia in your minds. It could happen to you, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe never but the fear has to be real.
Based on the novel, Lockup written by Chandrakumar, Visaranai unravels the author’s torturous experience in a Guntur lockup giving a blow-by-blow (literally) report of events. It is said that a momentary euphoria kicks in after enduring an intense pain and that’s what you’d feel when the first half ends. After witnessing scenes of excruciating physical torture, you’d think there could be no way out of this for the victims and yet there is. But the director, Vetrimaaran, injects a stunning contrast in the second half. Though there is not a single blow or so much as a small scratch inflicted on Pandi and his friends, the kind of psychological torment they go through every minute makes you realize the physical torment is actually bearable. The sequence of events in the second half, told with a superlative attention to details, is nothing short of a never-ending agony. The film spectacularly poises itself like tightrope-walking as every character you come across is wired with their own moral sense of justice towards their actions.
Samuthirakani, playing Inspector Muthuvel, is the fulcrum of this tense drama. The whole movie fits well in his point of view. He represents us as the average citizen and not Pandi and his friends simply for the fact we as commoners ride our lives in guilt every single day because of the silence we observe during times of action. We go with the flow. We are well-adjusted and taught to be so. Inspector Muthuvel finds the weaker good and the stronger evil on either side waging a war on his morals. How does he choose? Does he side with the strong and survive? Or does he choose the good and subtract his existence from this world? And it is not through the twist in the end but only through the technique, used in spiraling out of a singular eventful night to a much broader argument on survival, the director delivers the sucker punch.
Visaranai thrives on a few brilliant ironies. One striking thing is that the climax is set on the eve of Ayudha Poojai, which is traditionally a worship of weapons and tools but what actually happens is the abuse of such weapons. And the tiny beautiful things captured in this movie matter a lot to keen observers. How often does a movie show the mundane like a curtain fluttering from an AC’s blower? Or how often does a character involve in an actual dialogue after moving off-focus in a scene? Or how often do you see an actual policemen, rusty in his job, struggle to cock his gun for a shot? Visaranai shines through in such aspects.
Oftentimes, says one of the characters, Auditor KK, “We all are part of the game run by the system”.
As a commoner, we are designed to be used up or destroyed. Do we stand up against it or merely choose to be mute pieces? Visaranai does not have the answers but certainly a lot of such questions lined up to be asked in a voice much louder in nature. Until there are answers, as average citizens, we have to be prudently paranoid.