As a film, Solo looks good on paper. Four different stories of love styled around the four elements of nature. They also have a central theme, Lord Shiva. All the leads Shekhar, Trilok, Siva and Rudra are named after him and show facets of his persona. As fascinating as it might sound, not all thoughts manifest themselves on screen effectively. The result is that these ‘layers’ don’t really add to the core story thread in each chapter making Solo more of a visual experience. You have to give it to Bejoy Nambiar and his cinematographers, there isn’t one frame that doesn’t look good. On the other hand, we aren’t convinced by the events or their emotional outcomes. Despite being individual stories, there are several motifs that unintentionally link the four stories — accidents, a pregnant woman/kids, the number four, relationships outside the realm of marriage.
The first story, World of Shekhar is easily the best of the lot in terms of writing. A well-rounded story, we see the evolution of the relationship between Shekhar (Dulquer Salmaan) and Radhika (A beautiful Sai Dhansika). A poignant tale, the complex non-linear narrative adds to the drama. As the stuttering Shekhar, Dulquer gives a great performance but it is Dhansika who catches our eye. Ironic, considering she is blind in the movie. Radhika reminds us of a Mani Rathnam heroine — beautiful, creatively inclined (she dances) feminine, but strong. The reference to Shiva is more natural here, so is the stylisation around water. (Dulquer has long hair and is a musician. Like the river embraces the shore, we have a heroine who knows the language of touch).
The world of Trilok is an interesting premise that could have gotten more screen space. While it runs in line with the Shiva theme (Dulquer is a vet. Shiva is also known as the lord of animals), the stylisation around air is not as evident. In that aspect, World of Siva is probably the best. Visualised around fire, the chapter is literally painted red. It is tough to find a frame without a trace of red, whether it is a background artist in red or the colour of the walls. World of Siva also showcases Bejoy at his experimental best; Dulquer has just one dialogue in the entire chapter. The rage is apparent, with a Dulquer who looks like a ticking bomb. They should have named this chapter Rudra, considering the lack of rage in the World of Rudra. The weakest chapter of the lot, Rudra’s story takes a blasphemous arc — it ends up being too implausible. The arrangement also works against the movie as we walk out after its most superficial story.
To sum it up, Solo is not a movie for everyone. It is an experimental effort that ends up fascinating the eye more than it does the mind.
This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.