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Agilan - Shallow waters

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Following N Kalyanakrishnan’s debut with 2015’s ‘Bhooloham,’ Jayam Ravi joins hands with the director once again for ‘Agilan.’ ‘Bhooloham’ was not particularly well received by critics or the audience, therefore one cannot help but wonder what drew Ravi back to Kalyanakrishnan. Perhaps it was because on paper the film has an interesting premise: an exploration of the world of smuggling in shipping. However, due to failures in almost every department, ‘Agilan’ leaves a lot to be desired.

The titular protagonist Agilan is a crane operator at a Chennai harbour, who participates in illegal activities such as smuggling and murder for his boss Paranthaman - played by Hareesh Peradi. However, it is revealed early on that Agilan’s allegiances do not lie with him; he is an ambitious and disloyal worker, who Paranthaman often describes as “cunning.” Agilan wishes to rise in the ranks of the coastal mafia, and claim the title of “King of the Indian Ocean.” The film primarily focuses on Agilan and his friction with the newly relocated Delhi Intelligence officer Gokul, as they attempt to outwit one another. 

Unfortunately, the film can be picked apart entirely, revealing flaws at every stage of its production. Not only is the screenplay wholly predictable, but the character arc for Agilan contains no nuance. Each character is poorly written. The worst of these is the character played by Priya Bhavani Shankar. The role of Inspector Madhavi is one of the most overtly unnecessary and tacked on in recent history. Other than a few (perhaps two?) scenes in the first half, she does not speak. Instead, her role is to appear once in a while to carry out an errand at her lover’s request. Shankar has proved herself to be a capable actress, and her talents are sidelined in ‘Agilan.’ The Delhi Intelligence officer Gokul is described as a chain-smoking alcoholic. Neither of these descriptions play into the rest of the story, and nowhere in his performance does Chirag Jani’s Gokul seem inebriated. A few of the performances from supporting roles are laughably bad. 

The cinematography is unspectacular. The editing and flow of the narrative are awkwardly paced, which was the most noticeable technical flaw in the film. An issue many Tamil films face when screened overseas is meeting the certification standards of at least a 12A, hence a lot of the action sequences have been edited out, further cluttering the flow of an already inconsistent film. 

Sam CS has developed a cult following due to his work on film soundtracks such as ‘Vikram Vedha,’ ‘Kaidhi,’ and ‘Saani Kayidham.’ All these films are violent and dark, and hence Sam CS has become the first port of call for films of this genre. However, the guttural humming and distorted guitar riffs have become tiresome. The one song in the soundtrack, ‘Dhrogam,’ is sloppily written, composed and produced. 

There is a scene in the film where Agilan points out certain containers and explains how each of them play a larger role in the economy. This was the sole interesting moment in this film. Otherwise, ‘Agilan’ is an utter mess. There is nothing redemptive in this boring depiction of an interesting premise. For a better film about the gritty underworld of smuggling, I would highly recommend Vetri Maaran’s 2018 film ‘Vada Chennai.’

Krishna's rating: 1.5 stars


Official trailer for the film below. 

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