When was the last time you watched a film where the hero doesn’t save the day for the common good? Where ladies in skimpy dresses aren’t dancing to the lust filled eyes of a few alcoholics and where they are not constantly guided by men to live their lives? Where cleverly laid motifs were hidden throughout the film and the whole duration of the film had you at the tip of the seat without the ardent desire to touch your phone screen taking over you even once?
If you think it’s been a while, then Game Over is the film that’ll help you break this streak. This piece of art directed by Ashwin Saravanan can be addressed to as genre defining cinema rather than genre specific cinema. A fact that has attracted audiences across varying languages towards it. Boxing it into a genre isn’t a simple task as it is really difficult to decide whether the film is a horror, thriller, psychological drama or mystery.
Before I start off with why this film makes me look at it with such high regard, I would like to talk about one very interesting literary principle that this movie has religiously followed. Chekhov’s gun is a principle in which Anton Chekhov talks about how only significant elements should be a part of the film and unnecessary elements should be removed. He explains this using a rifle saying that if there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there. Ashwin has worked backwards to cleverly integrate crucial objects that play an important role in the climax into the initial parts of the film. For instance a candle, a kerosene can and a leg rest are given enough screen time to register in the audiences head merely subconsciously and are then used as weapons towards the end against the killers.
In another sense, this can also be referred to as Foreshadowing. It often appears at the beginning of a story and it helps the viewer develop expectations about the upcoming events. The sound of the fridge everytime Swapna( Taapsee Pannu) opens it to drink water, a poster that says what if life is a Videogame and Deja Vu are just check points, the tattoo parlour named Immortal Inks that reveals the element of supernatural presence or immortality of the soul post death, the Pacman game with three lives,etc. constantly hints the audience about upcoming events. It is the realisation towards the end when you see the connection between the foreshadowed elements to the story that’ll blow one's mind. Even the sound of a ticking clock provides a primary motif in the film’s soundtrack to indicate the New Year Countdown that plays a crucial part towards the end of the film.
Writing about the Pacman game reminds me of another interesting point i.e the director’s obsession with the number 3. From the Pacman’s number of lives to the number of viruses attacking the Pacman, the number of people living in the house (Swapna, The househelp and the watchman), the number of lives that Swapna has towards the end, the number of levels in the therapy game, the number of times Amutha defeats cancer and the number of psycho killers, an obvious pattern in the numerical count can be commonly observed. If this is mere obsession or an underlying intention, I haven’t been able to figure out but it sure was interesting to see the effort that has gone into creating this numerical pattern throughout the film.
The film beautifully keeps the audience second guessing throughout. Right when you think that this is the only way to continue the flow of the story, the film will surprise you with another element thus keeping you engrossed in guessing the direction of the plotline. It avoids cliches and stereotypes on how a genre should look like and how a plotline should progress without making it predictable at any given point. The film also leaves a lot of subplots unexplained and focuses mainly on Swapna’s fight against the killers. Although personally I would have enjoyed to understand why things happened the way they happened like Amutha’s death, who the three killers are , why they were targeting Swapna, etc,but leaving the subplots unexplored retains the intrigue about the film and doesn’t let the audience divert from the main plotline.
Coming to my favourite bit of the film. I know this isn’t the first time I am using this but that’s because this film has more than one good reason for me to reuse the “my favourite bit” card. The most important one being the female characterisation in the film making it one of the best feminisitic films I've seen in a while. Hats off to every female character and the relationships they've portrayed so beautifully in the film. I don’t know if it was the brave fight she puts off till the end, the independency or just the hair, Tapsee Pannu’s character resonated a little too much with me as someone I can look up to. The brilliance of the writing and characterisation is reflected in every relationship portrayed in the film thanks to the writers Ashwin Saravanan and Kaavya Ramkumar. Be it Kalamma played by Vinodhini Vaidyanathan and Swapna’s relationship or Amutha played by Sanchana Natarajan and her relationship with her mother (Parvathi T), they are all so beautifully shown that you will not be able to stop yourself from appreciating the constant support that each of them provide in the other’s life. What blew my mind however was the extremely well done emotionally touching conversation between Swapna and Amutha’s mother just before the intermission. They aren’t even directly related but that won’t stop you from shedding a tear or two for a conversation as soulful as the one they had.
I am extremely glad to see the progressive direction that films in our industry are heading towards, a game up from the commercial melodramas that our audience has been subjected to for ages. Some films over explain messages while some others scream them out on your face but very few films subtly tell you the message without making it obvious while ensuring that the audience receive it in the right way. Game Over talks about women supporting women and fighting their own wars in such a manner. I most definitely wasn’t suffocated by characters preaching the same but it touched me just enough to be grateful for the women in my life, their constant support and the battles we bravely fight everyday cause we’ve been told to fight like a girl.