‘Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru’: A murder mystery that upends every expectation

dhuruvangal-pathinaaru-2016

We’ve been conditioned to believe that a coin has two sides, yes, but what if someone succeeds in convincing you that there is a third side? Or a fourth? How would you take this revelation? Or what if you are told that a deck of cards contains not 52 but 53 cards?

The ‘murder mystery’ (or an ‘investigation thriller’ or a ‘psychological thriller’) is arguably the most beloved of genres, aside from horror, which most people eagerly look forward to, be it a novel or a film. Everyone loves the surprise twist (or two) which shows up at the end and which may or may not blow their minds. Some might see it coming and some might not. Some twists invite you to take a second look at a film and makes you look at it from a different perspective – this might keep changing the more you think about it.

There have been thousands of films, each taking the challenge of surprising the viewer head on and managing to deliver exactly what the viewer wants to see. How do you come up with something that has never been tried before? Newcomer Karthick Naren – who, some might be surprised to learn, is 22 – is perfectly aware of this and has managed to do something that even those filmmakers who are 10 years older than him could only dream of doing: conjure up a murder mystery that upends every expectation and cliché.

I bet, after seeing the film, some of them might have thought to themselves, “If only I had an idea that was half as good as this one.” Naren opens it in the middle of a cold, dark night shrouded in thick and heavy downpour – it’s a perfectly shot, chilling and mesmerizingly atmospheric setting. We are shown a psychopathic killer and a murder that follows his arrival. I’m not going to ruin your experience with a detailed synopsis because it’s better to see this film with as little knowledge about the story as possible. I couldn’t predict at all how it would end. All the guesses I made turned out wrong.

However, I think it’s safe to say something about the main character, a cop named Deepak, played by Rahman. He is intimidating, intuitive, smart, mindful and sensible. At the same time, he exudes a certain amount of charisma as well. Although we’ve seen this character in several films and novels before, he still remains fresh. He’s got a small backstory and if he were in a Gautham Vasudev Menon film, this would be revealed through few songs and melodramatic sequences. Naren keeps it hidden until the last minute and connects them to everything that’s been happening in the foreground.

The whole film is quite complex – and overwhelmingly so – with enough coincidences (few of which I found too convenient but still let pass because they don’t get in the way) and sub-plots that would make Raymond Chandler proud. But at the same time, it resolves everything neatly with the deftness of, say, someone like Agatha Christie. This is one of those stories that could have gone wrong in someone else’s hands. Fortunately, Naren’s remarkable clarity of vision works in its favor.

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