Visaranai (Tamil meaning interrogation) is all about police atrocities and the unchallenged power they wield. In India people will willingly talk to a pickpocketer or even a fraudster but prefer staying 100 metres away from a policemen. Even in cases of robbery, to the point the amount loss is bearable, victim will avoid police. The general perception (widely driven by movies) is that police are uniformed bandits. If one gets looted or raped and reports to police, the chances of the victim being subject to more loot and rape are higher, than any effort made on catching the culprit.
Thirty minutes into Visaranai, and you wish none from your friends or family get picked up randomly by police as the four Tamil speaking labourers Pandi, Afzal, Kumar and Murugan are. What follows is a cat and mouse game where the Telegu speaking Andhra Pradesh police use every trick to make the ‘immigrants’ admit they robbed at a high profile residence. The lead, Pandi, is adamant not to confess to a crime which they never did and his determination pays through a stroke of luck. There is a Tamil speaking inspector, Muthuvel, around in the courts in day of their hearing and he saves the day.
Muthuvel himself is pawn to a political game. The ruling party has directed the police to pick up the opposition leader’s auditor K.K. and either get him to confess wrong dealings or make money out of him. You could be a well known, stinking rich auditor to a politician, but when in hands of police interrogation, tied inside unknown premises, your denominator is at my level. There is talk upto paying 3 crores bribe, but stripped down to underwear, hands tied behind, you just wish your life is never remotely what K.K. was undergoing now.
K.K. dies in police custody, in one shocking scene, and just as the police chief and team decide how to cover it up as suicide case, in an adjacent room Pandi, Murugan and Afzal are cleaning up. The police believe the labourers have overheard their idea and decide to frame the three in an ATM robbery case. Muthuvel hates seeing the three innocent men he saved from one hell, being dragged into another; he hates the corrupt and morally low levels the police have stooped too; but his hands are tied. Even for him the unchallenged power he wielded (in kidnapping and handling K.K.) could soon turn upon him.
The movie ends with each of the good men turn to victims and with some family photographs flashed for public sympathy. The labourer Kumar goes on to become an auto driver M. Chandrakumar and writes a book called ‘Lock Up’. Visaranai is adapted from that novel.
Several scenes stay in mind much beyond the movie. The outstanding ones in (Top 10 in order shown in movie):
1. The life of immigrants, opening a shop at 5am, sleeping in park, the small romance scene etc
2. The initial pick up, mercilessly beating and forcing the immigrants to accept without them having a clue on what crime and why it’s them
3. Tied with feet up, being whacked on the foot, then asked to run around for blood circulation, then again tied feet up.
4. The scene where the immigrants are tricked to early release, they have sumptuous meal and are soon captured back.
5. The Court scene
7. K.K.’s torture turning to death and how it’s made to look suicide
8. When the protagonists are being framed again falsely
9. The climax chase amongst tall grass
10. The ending.
For a masterpiece movie acclaimed internationally, I will spare myself commenting on screenplay, editing, camerawork, pace and other technical aspects. They are all top notch. You can sense danger when it’s lurking and yet get shocked by sudden twists. So instead of detailing on technicalities, let’s look at its Academy Award winning potential.
Can Visarnai win the Oscar?
The movie has been premiered at Venice Film festival and released early this year to wide crictical acclaim as well as massive box office success. It won an award at Venice too. Later it made it as India’s official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 89th Academy awards – ceremony due on 26 Feb 2017.
Oscars aren’t necessarily won by the best film, but sure the films with best marketing, hype and ‘door to door’ selling around the stakeholders, holds highest chance. Tamil megastar, and in my books, India’s finest actor, Dhanush, being the producer, gives this movie the edge in this domain. He sure will leave no stone unturned in publicizing it amongst Academy corridors and getting them to watch it atleast.
The movie ticks a few boxes which the western world (where the Academy jury comes from) majorly ‘likes’ to see in third world. The movie shows India and her officials as corrupt, cruel and lack of soul. The protagonists are primarily poor immigrants and ending is tragic. Pointers which the academy would like to see India in and reward subequently.
Negatives could be the movie is primarily shot amidst dark scenes, there’s not much celebration of Indian food, culture, monuments and other problems. Had that been shown, the chances of it winning Oscars would have reasonably increased. I repeat, at that level, content of the movie matters little. Oscars is never representation of fairness, and anyways in matters of art, subjectivity will rule.
89th Academy Awards Prediction
Visaranai will make to the top five nominations of Best Foreign Language Film.
Kudos to Producer Dhanush (wish he had acted – the box office and Oscar credentials would have further enhanced); writer M Chandrakumar & Director Vetrimaaran. If you are a book lover do read ‘Lock Up’.
And join me in hating and staying away from Indian Police.