Two master filmmakers – both have an ear for music, an eye for detail, a fierce commitment to character and a love for literature – attempted to break the mould with films about serial killers in search of love. Or was it really sex? Both films were largely hailed as disappointing, thanks to the burden of baggage.
Auteurs bear the burden of their previous work and are compared against it, irrespective of genre. But, the fact that you expect only the best from a certain actor or director is, in itself, a compliment and acknowledgment of genius.
Vishal Bhardwaj disappointed me with Saat Khoon Maaf. To me, it seemed like the work of a distracted director who did not fully execute his vision of a macabre dark comedy that Tim Burton would have sunk his teeth into, given the bloody subject. I came out let down with all these questions? Why didn’t he just set this story in the 16th century so that we didn’t have to worry about divorce and a civil society? Why was this film devoid of a credible local ethos – the trademark of a Vishal Bhardwaj film that always sounded and smelt of the place it was set in? It doesn’t get more contrived than a whip-fight between a midget fighting a one-legged soldier unless VB just wanted to stage a politically incorrect duel between disabilities? The narrative here conveniently jumps places and spaces restlessly like its protagonist, who caked with bad make-up, never comes across as a real person thirsting for love? OR WAS IT ALL ABOUT SEX?
Usually, filmmakers make up for the lack of depth with broad strokes of humour, larger than life quirks or even inanely random twists just so that they don’t lose the audience halfway. Surprisingly, 7KM has nothing to keep you hooked throughout. Vishal Bhardwaj gives us his version of a teleserial, like Ashutosh Gowariker recently did with What’s Your Rashee, only that he does not find even seven dynamically different types to play with.
Like a man out of ideas to come up with seven different kinds of love (represented by gun, guitar, bust of a poet, err… out of ideas, forget the statues halfway), VB resorts to different kinds of sexual deviance or the absolute lack of mojo to tell the men apart – One is impotent, another is a cross-dresser, the third one is sadistic pleasure seeker, the fourth a promiscuous cheater, the Viagra popping fifth and the shroom-obsessed sixth – implying that she was only sexually incompatible with most of them. And how exactly does that explain the choice of the seventh husband – the resolution of her quest?
The other film of the week, Gautham Menon’s much-awaited Nadunisi Naaygal, was termed a disappointment too by many of his fans. But this time around, I find myself on the filmmaker’s side. He set out to make a genre film and stayed faithful to that, without really giving a rat’s ass about what his fans drunk on love would feel about a psychotic serial-kidnapper who was thirsting for love too?
Menon’s film, but for the last five minutes when he underestimates your intelligence (he gets a doctor to explain the entire story) and tries hard to sound politically correct (the doc kindly clarifies that not all mentally ill are violent killers and some might be victims of child abuse) and then goes on to give us spiel and stats about child abuse. Come on! Screw the activists, Gautham. A psycho-thriller is not the place to be politically correct. Maybe it was that burden of past work that would bring the masses in that forced him to act all responsible towards society and give us gyaan about schizophrenia and child abuse. Seriously, it makes the film a little dishonest and pretentious. If the idea was to make a film about child abuse and schizophrenia, it required a very different story and treatment from that of a serial killer on the prowl template.
Nadunisi Naaygal, ironically now, has been criticised of being the film it is not. Child abuse shouldn’t have been treated so callously and linked to serial killing, the critics of the film say. Maybe they are right. IF it were truly intended to be one about child abuse. In a recent interview with Times of India, Gautham insists it was what prompted him to make the film.
But it is not.
Gautham obviously just wanted to break the mould and prove he can make a film without music since music and love have been the hallmark of his films.
The film titled ‘Nadunisi Naaygal’ isn’t about child abuse as it is about man’s dog-like behaviour under territorial threat display, the basic instinct to chase and conquer and the dark side of desire.
It’s a standard psycho-serial-killer-thriller that packs an interesting twist (one I did not see coming), one that redeems the entire film and reduces his protagonist to a obsessed schizophrenic victim rather than a meticulous cold-blooded killer who has been hoodwinking the law. It’s all done with swift pace that leaves you no time to think or miss the music and to that extent, the film is commendable as an experiment that will pave the way for independent filmmakers. It’s refreshing to see an established filmmaker go back to the basics and embrace an indie approach usually born because you have no choice, no stars, no budget and just the passion to do something different.
Gautham always has stars who want to act for him, he has producers willing to give him the budget, music directors ranging from Harris Jeyaraj to A.R.Rahman associated with his projects. Yet, he chose to make a film like he had nothing else but passion.
Hats off to that. A director is reborn. He launches an actor in Veera. And they both make a decent debut.
So I’ll forget the last five minutes because of the burden of baggage he brings from his past life.