M. Saravanan’s Tamil directorial debut was 2011’s almost two and a half hour road safety PSA in the form of ‘Engeyum Eppothum’ - a charming yet tragic tale of two couples, soured in the final moment by the ending title card. The film was met with positive reception, however Saravanan has slipped into relative obscurity since. His latest release is the Trisha starrer ‘Raangi,’ an ambitious but divisive action thriller.
The film follows Thaiyal Nayagi, a fiery but unsatisfied online journalist who feels her work is insincere and unimportant. The film opens with Thaiyal Nayagi being arrested in turn by the police, CBI and the FBI, and being taken to a remote location for interrogation. A flashback to a few weeks prior reveals the strange sequence of events which led her to this situation. A tale involving catfishing, blackmail and corruption unfolds.
The cast is a mixed bag. Trisha has proved herself a solid actress in recent ventures such as ‘96’ and ‘Ponniyin Selvan,’ so it is a safe assumption that it is under Saravanan’s unfocused direction that we do not witness what could be potentially some of her best work. Lizzie Antony continues to be a great supporting actress. The weakest performance was Bekzod Abdumalikov as Aalim, a role which could have been star-making but he instead spends a major chunk of screen time running around the screen ecstatically in slow motion.
The biggest drawback to the film is - despite its unique plot - the hashed execution. The cinematography is decent: there are moments of POV, interesting instances of framing, a freely roaming camera which choicely picks out its shots, and some strong landscape images. The colour grading deserves a special mention, as the subtle and fine picks for visual tone exhibit restraint. However, the film falls apart at simpler hurdles. The screenplay and dialogue are clumsy. We are introduced to an interesting, independent female lead who very quickly becomes two dimensional. Trisha employs a pensive look for an uncomfortable amount of runtime, and badly placed voiceover narration explains her thoughts.
A major issue is the certainty with which ‘Raangi’ delivers its plot; there is a lot of room for thematic exploration, none of which it undertakes. The film races from one event to the next. It flags up many ethical issues, all of which it glosses over. There is no time spent pondering on the causes or repercussions of any situation experienced or decision made by the heroine - she is steadfast in her beliefs, and acts accordingly. A more nuanced film would have built character as Thaiyal Nayagi wrestles with these conundrums. Instead, the film wastes precious time on over choreographed, uninspired action set pieces and dodgy CGI, which are staggeringly less interesting than the core problems.
Another massive setback is the score by C. Sathya. The background music does not elevate the onscreen antics, instead unwelcomely looming in the corner with quiet but out-of-place strings. There is one song sequence in the film, which sticks out sorely and feels tone-deaf conceptually.
Overall, the core concept of ‘Raangi’ could have made for an enthralling and morally conflicting drama. Instead, Saravanan botches the delivery and presents a sloppy shell of a great film. Although it is not the best of the Tamil films currently available in the cinema, it is the most interesting and thought provoking. The subject matter has enough to think about on the scale of a film one would come across at the Cannes Film Festival (for which story writer AR Murugadoss should be lauded), but is executed in a B-movie manner. It is a disappointment to watch a potentially rich concept be mishandled to this extent.
Krishna's rating: 2 stars
Official trailer for the film below.