Structured as a ‘whodunit’ film, Naachiyaar uses the unreliable narrator potently. The final reveal isn’t a surprise, but there is enough pathos to keep you invested. The film’s crisp run-time is another added advantage.
Naachiyaar movie cast: Jyothika, GV Prakash Kumar, Ivana
Naachiyaar movie director: Bala
Naachiyaar movie rating: 3 stars
It is impossible to walk out of a Bala movie with apathy for its characters. Despite the flaws and the macabre, he gives us people whom we ‘feel’ for. Bala’s film universes are crafted with dark blades that give us a peek into worlds that sometimes are too real to handle. This is one of the reasons why several people shun the award-winning director’s films — they don’t want to feel disturbed when they walk out of a movie. Naachiyaar is Bala’s peace-offering to them. To describe it best, it is a mellowed down Bala film that, surprisingly, has an uncharacteristic sliver of hope. For an ardent follower of his work, this feels as out of place as the conversation in English that Naachiyaar (Jyothika) has with her daughter in the film.
Naachiyaar begins with a long pan over the garbage dumps that borders the high-rise civilisation. The story follows several people who have built their ivory towers on people who they consider ‘value-less’. It pits the have-nots against the haves, the power-starved against the mighty. Structured as a ‘whodunit’ film, Naachiyaar uses the unreliable narrator potently. The final reveal isn’t a surprise, but there is enough pathos to keep you invested. The film’s crisp run-time is another added advantage.
Bala’s characters are brilliantly layered but the writing has spaces that we need to fill for ourselves. When the writing fails to lure you into its cinematic premise, the performances do. In fact, every performance in Naachiyaar is perfect. Jyothika as the tough cop (Naachiyaar) is a delight to watch. Her character is so well etched out that I don’t mind the few stagey lines her character gets to make her ‘likable’. Naachiyaar isn’t the kind of cop who shouts for a driver. She gets into driver seat herself. There is a kickass scene where she barges into a steam room. As she breaks down the door, Jyothika gets an aura of smoke around — the kind of stuff our mass heroes get. But this is a Bala film; the next sequence we see her with a shoulder brace and a cut on her forehead.
Jyothika nails her expressions but despite much effort, the dialogues don’t sound as rooted as they should. Full marks for effort though. The actor’s second innings has been immensely more exciting than her first stint. I couldn’t help but smile when Naachiyaar says, “Thol colourayum moonji um pathu emanthu, ‘Hi, how are you, very nice nu pesatha’. Sangarthuruven. (Don’t be misguided by my fair looks. I will end you).” It felt like a warning to people who try to slot her into ‘mother’ roles or more conventional characters.
However, the film has been misleadingly titled Naachiyaar — it equally belongs to the story of Kathu (GV Prakash Kumar) and Arasi (Ivana). Bala’s heroes have always been a bag of odd ends, a unique mixture of progressive and regressive ideas. Take Paradesi’s Rasa for example. A man-child, he is happy to be bossed around by women but is hesitant to accept a rape victim; he comes around when sense is drummed into him. Kaathu is a similar man-child with a mature twist. GV Prakash Kumar’s transformation as Kaathu is phenomenal (his best performance until now) and Ivana makes an impressive debut. The treatment of this angle is where Bala has softened the most — maybe Bala felt that real life was too disheartening by itself.
As I said earlier, there are people who don’t watch Bala’s films because they don’t want their heart ripped out. There are people who watch his films seeking the exact same thing. If you belong to the first sect, you can walk in confidently. Your heart won’t be ripped out but there is enough to yank it out of place. After all, it is a film by Bala.