Cast: Dinesh, Murugadoss, Kishore, Samuthirakani
Films about police brutality have been a hit with the masses, harassed and humiliated as they are by the men in khaki. And this was one important reason why a movie like Mohanlal starrer Drishyam in Malayalam and its Tamil remake, Kamal Haasan starrer Papanasam were applauded and appreciated. I saw how an essentially Tamil audience went into raptures every time Mohanlal’s character outwitted the cops.
Vetrimaaran’s Visaaranai, coming as it does in a climate such as this, is bound to strike a chord with the ticket-paying public. Premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Visaaranai or Interrogation is a power-packed work about police high-handedness on four hapless Tamil daily-wage earning labourers who have made the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh their home. In fact, they do not even have a hut, a makeshift tent in a public park serving as one.
Based on the true and horrific experience of a Coimbatore-based autorickshaw driver, M Chandra Kumar -- who wrote a book, Lock Up, narrating his nightmarish 13 days in a small prison cell in Andhra Pradesh -- Visaaranai veers though a bit in its plot.
While Kumar was never told what his crime was, Pandi (Dinesh) in the film and his other friends -- who are picked up the police one morning outside the provision store in Nellore where they work-- are forced to confess to a theft they did not commit.
There are gruesomely bloody scenes of custodial torture, which the cops have to resort to, because they are under pressure to solve a robbery case in a high-ranking bureaucrat’s house. Finally, the four “confess” to the crime, and in the meantime, a special police force from Tamil Nadu, led by Murugavel (Samuthirakani), arrives at the Nellore police station.
Being a Tamil, Murugavel empathises with the four workers and takes them back to Tamil Nadu -- where unfortunately they get trapped in a web of intrigue spun by corrupt policemen and politicians.
Watch Visaaranai trailer here:
Set to fine unobtrusive music by GV Prakash, the Indian version of Visaaranai at 117 minutes is slightly longer than what was screened at Venice, 108 minutes. With razor-sharp dialogues, neat direction and wonderfully realistic performances (Samuthirakani and Dinesh in particular), Visaaranai is packed with bruised bodies bloodied with the baton and other forms of terrifying third-degree methods.
Yes, this is reality at its harshest best, and Vetrimaaran’s work may not be suitable for a popcorn-munching, Coke-sipping audience used to colour and gloss, song and dance. But for a serious viewer of cinema, Visaaranai is a great work whose imagery will provoke him or her to mull over all that is seriously wrong with our country.