DISCLAIMER: This post is merely a personal attempt by the author to gain some closure after watching something like Visaranai. If you happened to land here expecting a review, you will be sorely disappointed. However, the author believes that you may have gone through the same emotions as he did and you might relate to what’s written to a large extent. May contain mild spoilers.
To eat or not to eat? Pradeesh Raj and 'Attakathi' Dinesh | Source: stage3.in
Most feel that movies are for entertainment. On the contrary, some feel that films(and not movies) are more than just a tool to entertain you for a couple of hours; that it is an art form that has the power to drive change within a person, a group of individuals or even society, if it were possible.
There are many films that entertain, far more films that pretend to entertain, few films that drive change and probably a handful of films that change you forever. If I were to name a few films of the last category, the few titles that come to mind are Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
And then, I finished watching Vettrimaran’s Visaranai just an hour ago. It took me about 20 minutes to get back home, 39 minutes to try and understand what I just went through and another minute to start writing this.
For those who are unaware, Visaranai is simply a no-holds barred account of ‘The System’, an invisible yet omnipresent organism that comprises mainly of cops, criminals, politicians and the rest of us that get drawn into it. It is inspired primarily from a novel called Lockup, written by M.Chandrakumar, an auto driver from Coimbatore who wrote it based on his own run-ins with the police force back in the 80’s.
Visaranai traces the story of 3 young Tamil lads who are framed for a crime they never committed. Pandi(Attakathhi Dinesh), Murugan(Aadukalam Murugadoss), Kumar(Pradeesh Raj) and Afzal(Silambarasan) struggle to make ends meet far away from their hometowns in Guntur, a place alien to them. Their lives are turned upside down when they are apprehended by the local police and mercilessly beaten up day in and day out, with the police hoping that they confess to the crime they have been wrongly framed for. Inspector Muthuvel(a fantastic Samuthirakani) plays an idealistic cop who aids them with their freedom, but only for a brief period before they land back into the frying pan.
The Merciless Merchant of Maladies: Ajay Ghosh plays the scariest cop you will ever see | Source: stage3.in
If you’ve heard that is a brutal, violent film, it’s true. Teeth are broken, backs are torn apart, feet are hammered to a pulp. Vettrimaran takes you right into the underbelly of a police lockup and makes you feel the stinging force of the lathis as they land each time on the characters’ bodies, taking away a bit of their skin and a bit of your soul with every charge. But it is not the extreme violence that will break you on the inside. Here’s why.
We live in a world where we are forced to be overtly cautious. When we’re riding a bike on the streets and even if we have all our papers and have done nothing wrong, we avoid crossing paths with a police check-post. If some passerby asks for directions, we maintain a distance while uttering a few keywords before scampering away. If someone asks for a lift to the next signal, we think a 100 times before letting them get on, or simply look the other way. If someone is screaming for help in the middle of the street, we observe from afar without offering to contribute in any way in the fear that we’ll be dragged into unnecessary and adverse situations.
And in a world like this, when a film like Visaranai releases, it makes it all the more difficult to coexist in peace.
In the pursuit of justice: Samuthirakani as Inspector Muthuvel along with the lads | Source: deccanchronicle.com
Whether it’s the bald cop(Ajay Ghosh in the scariest role he could ever take up) who offers the lads some prasadam before stripping them and beating them up, the officer who chooses a pink lathi which would only be soaked in crimson post the ‘session’, the sly Assistant Commissioner, the older yet junior officer with a deceivingly smiling face, the helplessness of Muthuvel bound by the hierarchical system or the complete collective disregard for a fellow human being, Visaranai explores the thirst for power told through the setting of corruption in the police force. It will leave you squirming in your seat during its runtime and most importantly, fearing for your own life and loved ones long after you’re done watching it.
Though I hope the effect is temporary, what I believe will fundamentally change in me and most other viewers is the ability to trust another human being ever again, making it harder to talk to a complete stranger, let alone help him/her out in a crisis. It will force you to go into a shell wherever you are from now on, trying to avoid eye contact and finish whatever you’re doing quickly to get back to the comfort of your home and fasten the new lock you just installed on your door. It will stop you from posting that tweet about the politician you despise It will give you sleepless nights, making you feel bad about being born in this environment, in this country. And then, it’ll make you feel horrible about being a part of the human race.
From reel to real: 'Auto' Chandrakumar, whose life forms the crux of Visaranai | Source: thehindu.com
It isn’t everyday that you get to see a film like Visaranai. It’s probably the first time I find myself unsure whether to recommend a movie to someone. Though it is an extremely important film which I’m sure will be considered for this year’s entry to the Oscars(if that even matters) and one that everyone should watch, I fear for the psychological metamorphosis of anyone who watches it like I did. Apparently, the main leads of the film were made to go through rehabilitation after the film’s completion, owing to how it had affected them.
I can’t begin to imagine what went through Chandrakumar’s mind when he went through this…for real.