Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yaavarum Nalam


Horror has for long been a neglected genre in Tamil cinema, with the few rare entries being marked by unoriginal scripts, poor production values and bad special effects, all of which contributed to a complete lack of genuine scares. Things have gotten a little better recently and 2007's Sivi was a commendable entry with some good scares. But it was still dogged by some of the shortcomings of the earlier horror films. Yaavarum Nalam avoids those shortcomings also. Suspenseful and sensible, it may well be the film that finally bestows legitimacy on the horror genre in Tamil cinema.

Manohar(Madhavan) has just moved into apartment 13B in a highrise along with his family, which consists of his wife(Neetu Chandra), his brother Manoj and his family, and his mom(Saranya). Strange things seem to happen in the house right from the beginning but Mahohar dismisses them as a string of unfortunate coincidences. But he is forced to change his opinion when he notices that a new serial on TV mirrors his own life rather closely.

The movie works mainly because it treads the line between horror flick and thriller very well. While the underlying story may be a horror story, the movie doesn't trumpet itself as a horror movie and avoids resorting to the cheap thrills and scares we usually associate with the genre. There are very few 'Boo' moments or scary images (though opportunities abound for both) and most of the violence is offscreen. In their place, the movie develops atmosphere, a sense of dread and good suspense. So the film differs from other horror movies in that its intent is to tell the story of a man who is scared and not to scare us.

The film incorporates an original, intriguing premise in the way the serial mimics Madhavan's family and life. The other occurrences(the photos, the lift, etc.) that point to everything not being quite right are creepier but they are somewhat routine horror movie material. The life-serial parallel is a very original concept that keeps the screenplay moving while ratcheting up the suspense. As Madhavan, abandoning his beliefs, begins to look to the serial as a prognosticator of upcoming events, the serial basics so familiar to us, like the cliff-hanger episode conclusions, are employed cleverly in the story.

Horror movies, by nature, require some suspension of disbelief. We need to buy into some things and accept certain happenings without questioning their plausibility. This is required of us in the case of Yaavarum Nalam too. We can't, for instance, question how the TV serial characters are able to acquire the sets and other accoutrements needed for the serial. Or why, since they are later shown to be able to communicate with another character, they don't simply communicate with Madhavan instead of setting up the elaborate charade on TV. Such things related to these characters are easy to accept because of their very nature but when it comes to characters who are more grounded in reality, we become more stringent, which is why it feels odd that nobody, other than Madhavan, inspite being avid serial watchers, spots the parallels between the serial and their life.

The movie is in familiar territory when it finally reveals what's behind the strange things happening to Madhavan and the past events and their connection to Madhavan are a staple of horror movies. But it brings the pieces together in a way that resolves loose ends and answers most questions. The identity of the person behind the events is a big surprise inspite of there being only a few characters and the way the clues scattered all along are brought into the picture is very clever. The fact that the TV serial foreshadows upcoming events is used right upto the end to induce suspense and surprise.

Madhavan is sincere and believable as the harried man. His camaraderie with his family feels natural and he is intense as required when driven to get to the bottom of things. The movie pretty much revolves around him and so few others in the cast make an impression. Saranya evokes a few chuckles with her now-familiar dialog delivery. The film follows the trend of recent Hindi movies by picturizing the Sexy Mama... number as a music video and tagging it to the end of the film as the end credits roll. Its a good decision since the song wouldn't have fit anywhere else in the movie. Kaatrile... is aesthetically picturized while Kodaiyin Veyyilil... is just generic and catchy enough be the the serial's title song. P.C.Sreeram creates the claustrophobic atmosphere that the movie deserves and the innovative camera angles(like at the start where we are introduced to all the characters from behind or under everyday appliances) catch our eye.

7 Comments:

At 11:51 PM, Blogger skanda said...

why is that Mahdevan the only one in the family with the lif problem where no one else is even perturbed by it. The revelation of the villian was kinda shocking, and for once was actually clueless bout the procedings, there was actually a sense of dread, the best scene when Maddy went down to digg in the playgroud. Gosh, i was expecting lots of 'boo' moments here...

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger giri subramanian said...

Actually the killer is revealed when Madhavan and his police friend go to the hospital to look at the TV family's brother. When the warden tells them that the guy suddenly got violent looking at the TV program, for just few seconds in the TV someone says the word "I am a doctor..." something like that.

The second scene is when Madhavan and his cop friend go to the Doctors office to meet him, you can actually see the photo of the guy who was in love with the TV news reader in the TV family and threatens to kill the entire family if she is not married to him. So it all added up and I knew it before it was revealed in the climax.

I watched the hindi version so I am not sure if its the same in the Tamil version too.

 
At 8:30 AM, Anonymous ram said...

looks like you were really impressed with yaavarum nalam...good to hear that...the other day, i watched 'nooravadhu naall' after a very long time...man, what a taut thriller...as i was watching that, i was thinking of how few movies have been as effective as '100th day' in creating the "dread" and a sense of "atmosphere" that u mentioned in ur review...
i dont have much hopes for 'naan aval adhu' though...remember the hindi original was ripped apart in reviews and died a quick death at the box-office...

 
At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you watched Rock On? what was ur opinion about the movie?

 
At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

Wow. Really was a top film. How many stars?

 
At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Martian blogger said...

I loved the movie too...have given rave reviews back in my blog...although there are no scary ghosts with scary faces...the movie plays with our curiousity and fear for the safety of Maddy's family...loved it!

 
At 1:29 AM, OpenID balajithoughts said...

Great movie -- one of the few intelligent thrillers in tamil cinema in recent times. Reminded me of the days of Puriyadha Pudhir (which I saw yesterday to make for a surprising coincidence) and Nooravadhu Naal which played with the hero/heroine's emotions and thereby our emotions. Top movie, I am guessing a 3 star at least.

And not to spoil it for anyone but if you pay enough attention, you may guess the identity of the villain. And yeah, there are a couple of logical mis-steps here and there which BB has already mentioned , but I don't see how it affects the movie per se.

Another shocking bit of info is that the director of this movie previously helmed the modern day classic, "Alai" starring our very own Little Superstar Silambarasan. Surprising how people can change in a few years. Although one of my friends (who moves in and around cinema circles) said that this movie is what it is because the overall setup of each shot and scene (except story and screenplay which are Vikram's) was wholly done by P.C.Sreeram. Make your own guesses.

Balaji Sivaraman

 

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