Imaikka Nodigal review: Some intelligent writing burdened by commercial compromises

This week’s big release, Imaikka Nodigal has a lot of interesting things to offer. First off, it has Anurag Kashyap, complete with his magnetic screen presence. The Bollywood ace director is making his acting debut in Kollywood with Imaikka Nodigal and boy, he seems to have had fun. Anurag’s large, dramatic eyes do the trick as he delivers the right amount of exaggeration in his body language. Just when you think it is all about the raised eyebrows, the character takes a different dimension. The dubbing, while impressive, sounds a tad inorganic when you watch the film in length. Magizh Thirumeni’s slow, deep drawl sounds impressive in isolation but doesn’t really synergise with Anurag’s sense of muted drama.
Then, you have Nayanthara, who extends her streak of picking extremely interesting characters. There is an arena of grey that Nayanthara seems to love and excel in. Most of her recent choices seem to fall in that category — women who make unconventional choices but backed with emotional reasons that are conventional. Not that I am complaining. As CBI officer Anjali Vikramadityan, she breaks a few more boundaries as to what women can do on-screen. Nayanthara truly gets the hero treatment — the credits begin with her name (followed by Atharvaa and Anurag Kashyap), slow-motion shots, ‘message’ dialogues etc. But she ensures that her ‘mass moments’ do not come at the expense of diminishing another characters IQ. (Stray thought: I am also quite fascinated by how she ‘looks’ in her serious roles. In Aramm, she reminded us that collectors can be good-looking and in Imaikka Nodigal, she makes quite a statement with red hair highlights. However, I wish she had left the high heels alone. Does a CBI officer constantly walk around in high-heeled wedges?)
To top it off, you have Ajay Gnanmuthu’s story and fairly effective screenplay. He introduces Anurag to Kollywood with a wink, places his villain above his protagonist — literally. And with his twists, he manages to surprise you, if not shock you. Such ‘twists’ make the most sense when they don’t come out of the blue but are buttressed with smaller details much earlier. When the larger picture is unravelled, you have enough to automatically fill in the blanks coherently, if not conclusively. Watch a ‘Lion-Hyena’ story completely transform as the film progresses.

What Imaikka Nodigal suffers from, is the commercial compromises it has chosen to make. Did the presence of a young hero like Atharvaa automatically necessitate a romance track and a few songs? The presence of Arjun (Atharvaa) meant that his character had to be played up as well, in addition to Nayanthara and Anurag Kashyap himself, so that he gets a few ‘mass’ moments as well. Anjali, initially, acknowledges the villain’s smartness and when he does it back, it is Atharvaa who gets the nod of the hat. The multiple narratives diffuse the tension the cat-mouse game had initially created, by several degrees. To his credit, Ajay does weave these ‘mandates’ into the story. But the film takes too much time to make these connections. It is also the reason behind the film’s extended runtime — 170 minutes. There are also some smaller problems — some flippant editing that makes Hip Hop Aadhi’s ‘Belieber’ like background end abruptly at places. And I couldn’t stop frowning when a TV scroll reads ‘Kidnaped’.

The fact I liked the most about Kolamavu Kokila, Nayanthara’s latest release before Imaikka Nodigal, was that it didn’t heed commercial restrictions much. While it could have been whackier, it certainly handled the dark humour genre quite well. Imaikka could have created a greater impact had it stuck to its core. Instead, it chose to be more commercial failing to excel in both.

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