Nelson Venkatesan’s previous outing was a well-made family entertainer called ‘Monster,’ starring a typically cartoonish SJ Suryah as a man haunted by a mouse. The film is innocent fun, which are two words I would not use to describe his most recent work ‘Farhana.’ Venkatesan completely shifts gears, to deliver a solidly thought-out thriller. It impressively weaves through themes of masks, desires and self-control.
‘Farhana’ follows the titular character, portrayed by Aishwarya Rajesh, who steps up to provide financially for her struggling family. As a member of a conservative Muslim family, she is met with resistance. Going against the wishes of her elders, but supported by her husband, she gains employment at a call centre where she handily progresses. Incentivised by the wage increase at another department, Farhana crosses over, where her character and integrity are pushed to their limits.
The performances in this film are pitch-perfect from everyone involved. Aishwarya Rajesh, whose most recent feature I was not a fan of, lands a role and film more deserving of her calibre. Jithan Ramesh’s Kareem is a fantastically understated character, which he performs with poise. Selvaraghavan is a perfect fit for the role of Dhayalan, and once again reminds the audience of his acting prowess after great roles in ‘Saani Kayidham’ and ‘Beast.’
Venkatesan’s directing is worthy of high praise. The film is not flashy, instead using mature filmic selections to match its mature content. The director manages to keep the viewer engaged throughout. There are interesting angles, great uses of extreme close-ups and a fantastic use of juxtapositional editing. The level of consideration Venkatesan has used to create the film is evident, down to the thematic relevance of a pair of sunglasses.
Justin Prabhakaran’s background score aids the flow of the film - it is sufficiently nerve-racking when it needs to be. An interpolation of Erik Satie's 'Gnossienne No. 1' during a quieter moment worked well. The song sequences could have been cut however, allowing for a tighter final product.
The film is not without its flaws. There is a sequence featuring some shoddy CGI work, and a few instances of plot contrivances. However, these can be mostly overlooked.
The entire film cast and crew deserves credit for producing a solid piece of work. Tamil cinema has been long overdue for a change of pace, and ‘Farhana’ seems to be a step in the right direction.
Krishna's rating: 3.5 stars
Official trailer for the film below.