Movie Review: Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (Tamil)

If there is anything Gone Girl has taught me, it is to never trust point-of-view narratives in thrillers. It's a trope overused in today's crime fiction, but what surprised me was the way it was ingeniously employed in Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (meaning "16 Extremes", alluding to the fact that 16 actors were involved and that the events all took place in a time span of 16 hours), a gripping police procedural directed by 22-year-old (!) debutant Karthick Naren. Not only does this sleight of hand leave all threads hanging and shaky, it is also beguiling and manipulative, making it a chore for the watcher (as much it's for the characters in the story) to guess, and guess again, as strategically well-timed reveals are slowly unravelled.

D16 does this quite effectively, getting off to a flying start. The making is economical but taut, the scenes are atmospheric and brooding (terrific camerawork by Sujith Sarang and a bewitching musical score by Jakes Bejoy), most of them bathed in the black of night and yellow of the street lights, the characters and their motivations are cleverly concealed, and most importantly, Naren weaves in quite a few subtle details into the story that might escape your notice at first glance. But for a movie that gets a lot of things right with the genre, it gets a lot of things wrong too. Thus what starts as a razor-sharp chase for the murderer(s) gets diluted by convenient backstories and glaring, incredulous plotholes that, once seen, cannot be unseen. It's even worse than fridge logic.

The curse of the second half is nothing new. We have had several instances of films building up momentum admirably, adding layer atop layer, ratcheting up the tension to stratospheric levels, only to come crashing down as the knots are undone, either bogged down by underwhelming twists and turns or an overly simplistic explanation for the mystery that fails to elicit an "OMG!" reaction when the rug is pulled from under our feet. D16 suffers from a bit a both, and when all is revealed in a limp confrontational climax, you can't help but wonder "Is that it?". Yet the film is so promising a debut for Naren (bringing to mind Mysskin's Yuddham Sei), and its exploration of anger, love and guilt so fascinating, I am willing to overlook some of its conceptual flaws, as unconvinced as I remain about its abject failure to explain its core plot twist*.

*Spoiler alert: That Deepak failed to check on Gautam after the accident is a gaping hole in logic that no amount of explanation can suffice. He is a cop, for god's sake! And don't even get me started on Gautam's reasons for killing Deepak!