Art & Culture

Visaaranai exposes our brutality, leaving the truth unanswered

Saranya Chakrapani
Saranya ChakrapaniFeb 09, 2016 | 09:59

Visaaranai exposes our brutality, leaving the truth unanswered

There are moments in Visaaranai when you discover a consequence to all the food you see on screen. It begins with the steaming cup of tea protagonist Pandi (Dinesh), swallows down from the thattu kadai in this magnetic pre-daybreak light, before innocuously cycling away to work.

The palmfuls of laddu the convicts, (Dinesh, Murugadoss, Pradeesh and Silambarasan who've killed it), are rewarded by the cop who will go on to ravage their bodies and souls later in the film. The heaps of biryani that appear repeatedly, punctuating some of the most defining moments in the characters' journey; say before and after their soles are torn apart by excessive caning and their realisation that a possible hunger strike may be the only way to free themselves of the unforeseen, senseless torture in this custodial hell away from home.


You feel like the film strives to establish in its most primary form, the novel Lock Up's first impact on Vetri Maaran. And it's as though he wants you to know in exact precision the raging emotions he felt when he read it the first time. These are perhaps also closest to author Chandrakumar's own feelings of oblivion, upheaval, fear, anger and betrayal as a youth, when he was detained and tortured in a lock up for 13 days - the episode he went on to chronicle in this book, cathartically we hope.

Even before the film released in Chennai, after having travelled to the 72nd Venice Film Festival and won the Amnesty International Italia Award, we were sufficiently warned on how brutal its honesty was going to be. Mysskin, who is known to be straightforward and relentless in his own language of filmmaking, circulated a powerfully worded letter of praise for Vetri Maaran, describing Visaaranai as the movie that "made me humane".

But in all fairness, there's one level more to Visaaranai than its surface impact of "disturbing", "invasive" and "brilliant" - all that Vetri Maaran was implying in a circulated video when he warned you not to bring your kids to the movie.


This level is brilliantly subjective, in some ways even critical, of the bestial instincts of man this director chose to explore but left trailing without closure. You're left grappling with the thoughts of what could have been; pissed off, but not quite fathoming why we and the system we've created, keep failing each other.

And just to help those questions in your head get louder, the end credits roll on in silence.

Last updated: February 09, 2016 | 13:08
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