Vetrimaaran is back with his third official release as director and his first in last five years, which is inspired from a book Lock Up written by Coimbatore-based auto rickshaw driver M Chandra Kumar. The book is based on author?s first-hand account of existing interrogation techniques and brutality in the police department, and how they frame innocent people to admit to crimes they never committed through custodial torture.
The film premiered at the Orrizonti (Horizons) section of the 72nd Venice Film Festival,and eventually won ?Amnesty International Italia Award? for Human Rights.
The movie is about Pandi (Attakathi Dinesh) who works in a small daily provision stores in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) and stays in a public park at night along with other friends who have also come to nellore to work. On an ill-fated morning, all the four friends are picked up by the local police headed by the dreadful inspector (Ajay Ghosh). In the station, these four people are subjected to inhuman torture practices by police and the intention is to make these gullible people agree to a crime which they didn?t do. But the department wants to close the case and henceforth the custodial torture begins which has been portrayed in detail along with the different types of techniques the police use in reality. The four guys have no way to escape and eventually give in and are made to testify in the court. In parallel, a special team from Chennai headed by Murugavel (Samuthirakani) comes to the town to catch a high profile auditor (Kishore), and the turn of events leads them to court on the same day. How Pandi and group interlude with the Chennai police team and what happens to them in the court makes the first half. The first half races ahead with gut-wrenching scenes and spine-chilling portrayal of police torture techniques that provokes a sense of fear in the audience. Since the story begins from Andhra and moves to Chennai, first half is mostly in Telugu with some sporadic dialogues in Tamil.
The second half begins with the four friends falling in the hands of Tamil Nadu police and their journey to Chennai. In Chennai, they are asked to stay in a police station for domestic help and in due course they again unknowingly fall in to the notorious web of the so called ?system? which is formed due to the nexus between corrupt police officers and few politicians. What happens to these guys and how the unknown world of power politics, mind games of the rich and powerful affect the gullible forms the rest of the story.
Unarguably, this is one of the most powerful and hard hitting stories told in recent times. Every scene hits you on the face and repeatedly reiterates that nothing/no one is bigger than the 'system?, and it can have catastrophic effect on many innocent lives in and around. The insecurity and helplessness of the poor has been captured brutally and it raises pertinent question of the value of a human life and how a poor man?s life is taken for granted. The dialogues are razor sharp and minimal and the screenplay never deviates.
Attakathi Dinesh and Aadukalam Murugadoss shine throughout with their perfect portrayal of helpless guys. Samuthirakani is in his usual element as a police officer and Kishore underplays the role of a suave auditor who is caught off guard. Ajay Ghosh as the inspector in Andhra during the first half is a menace and we may see more of him in coming days. Apart from these major characters, all the other people create a lasting impression such as the senior constable in the Chennai station and the encounter specialist. Anandhi comes in a tiny role as Pandi?s love interest and also carries a backstory of hardship and struggle.
GV Prakash kills it with haunting BGM that sets the perfect mood well supported with the visuals that are mostly straight and real. There seems to be a reason for the time delay between two films of Vetrimaaran, as he comes out with a special film every time. With this movie, he has chosen a unfamiliar ground and raises numerous question in audience mind about the existence of the parallel reality which we conveniently ignore. The movie isn?t preachy or never tries to debate on anyone, but it tries its best to portray that such incidents happen everywhere and affect the naive. There are always two sides to the coin and being a inspiration from a first-hand account story, this movie focuses entirely on the flip side of the 'system?. The movie might not work with a larger audience especially with women and kids but for the lovers of the real cinema, this is a 5-course treat.
In Vetrimaaran?s own words, this movie is a depiction of a "harsh reality that we don't want to believe." Go watch it.