Lokesh Kanagaraju’s Nagaram (2017) Movie Review

Nagaram Maanagaram Movie Review

Movie Name: Nagaram
Star Cast: Sundeep Kishan, Regina Cassandra, Shri, Charle
Music Director: Javed Riaz
Director: Lokesh Kanagaraju
Editor: Philomin
Cinematography: Selva Kumar SK
Dialogues: Shashank Vennelakanti

Censor Certificate: UA & Runtime: 137.22 Minutes

Following a conventional polyperspective blueprint in terms of narrative. Nagaram delves into a proverbial Madras underbelly, where crime is inevitable and indelible. Unable to depart from timeworn genre staples in some respects, the film faces a serious threat and becomes a perfunctory fanfare.

Nagaram is a story of four strangers, and occasionally intertwining stories that all take place in the hellish Madras. We start with an unwilling soul aka. Stranger 1 (Shri) as he takes us on a tour through his rough town that’s run by the local gangs. Just as most segments of Madras are all run by various ruthless factions that are always vying for more power and influence. Next we’re introduced to gaali guy aka. Stranger 2 (Sundeep Kishan) who’s in love with a software professional (Regina Cassandra). Then we go back to third character a soft spoken driver aka. Stranger 3 (Charlie), who joins as a cab driver in Infotec Software Solutions to provide better treatment to his son. A underlying stranger who is in front of our eyes but we can’t see, organized crime. This stranger 4 happens to be in the each and every nuke of the script and it is what takes forward the story. In a metropolitan city these four strangers are always interlinked and Lokesh Kangaraju tries to exploit it in 137 minutes.

The most compelling part of the script is the idea behind the film. If you look into it keenly, the director wants to exploit four pillars of humanity – Trust! Judiciary! Karma! & Manipulation! To explain further, Stranger 1 falls under the category of judiciary where justice might be delayed, but it won’t be denied. Stranger 2 falls into category of Karma, What you sow is what you reap. Stranger 3 comes under the category of Trust, Where you trust circumstances and your will power to survive. Stranger 4 being the crime is the most obvious manipulation. So now let’s see how he exploited these points. In a very amateurish way he starts the film with an argument and a never ending bar scene which ends in a very predictable manner bringing all elements into the story, following highly trodden path. When you are trying to establish a character you need some character moments to connect or at least identify with a character. Here all four strangers definitely have a character but they try to ape Akira’s writing, but fails miserably to even been identified as Lokesh Kangaraju’s writing.

For any writer the genius – brilliance – identity lies in not just creating a compelling situation but it lies in how well the characters fill it up, liven it up, and letting audience connecting with them. Lokesh falters as he relies heavy on his situations rather than his characters, I can say with aplomb accuracy because after revisiting Roshomon, which seems to highly inspire the director, I was able to conclusively find evidences for my argument. 1. The first character moment for stranger 1 comes after he has been beaten and thrown on the road, unattended till the next morning. Even his friend, doesn’t care for him. Here Shri tried to bring the frustration but the writer Lokesh used the same frustration, in his argument with his employee. If that was the case, him exploding all of a sudden would have done justice to what he felt. Rather Lokesh tried to build it up as a seasoned campaigner, but the shallowness was visible throughout the runtime. Without going into all the examples, as it would be a complete spoiler review I would like to say this example how shallow the script development and narration were.  You needed the brilliance of Mani Rathnam’s Yuva, a pinch of Expertise of Balachander’s Anthuleni Kadha, Edhi Kadha Kadhu and pure rawness of Bharathi Raja’s Siggappu Rojakkal. In these films the story and the screenplay tries to be as close to reality as possible, while giving ample time for the character growth. Can you ever forget the absurdly fulfilling ending of Moondram Pirai or the fulfillment of the character that Nayagan/Baasha offers. These are the kind of films that explored characters, while being true to their genre, how real/unreal they might have been. Taking an inspiration from all these films, with a pinch of Roshomon, Lokesh could have easily full filled his dream of surviving a ‘Metropolitan City’.

In terms of direction and narration, Lokesh misses the structure tries to regain the confidence in the middle (character moment of William trying to warn PKP, Shri understanding the importance his GF’) and losses the point by the end of it. His main idea was even though a known stranger looms over your head, crawlers under your belly and survives on your haplessness, but you cannot give up living. You have to survive and “survive” by hook or crook. This may lead to ‘you attacking the crime’ or ‘doing crime by yourself’, but that shouldn’t make you criminal, confusing right. That is what he wanted to convey. With a decent pace and a tighter narrative structure he could have done wonder or produced a marvel for Tamil cinema and cinema in general. He misses the opportunity to hit a Dhoni six, instead gets clean bowled (all three stumps cartwheeling).

In other technicalities, soundtrack once again has the same old issue featuring some fine compositions, but translated lyrics, mixing and rendition is not upto the mark. Besides, the background score are too electronic and synth, overlapping the songs, making it hard on ears. The major highlight of the filming is cinematography by Selva Kumar SK, he never lets the tone of the movie go out of the determined parameters nor does he shy away from experimenting within. Editing by Philomin doesn’t help the movie as it tries to give it a cult tone. Cult status needs to be earned, but not forced.

In this subplot driven film, the main plot being survival, every characters arc seem to be a subplot trying to head toward a theme, that only director can understand. Well few actors did try to understand and communicate his vision unfortunately they were as confused as the director himself. Sundeep Kishan always tries to prove himself an actor, but never exercises on his desire the same expression no. 10, 15, 2, and 25 appear throughout the film. In one scene – the only scene and only one shot he gets a chance to go to expression 5, he doesn’t nail it that too. Regina Cassandra is just a showpiece in this mega metropolitan city. Shri and Ram doss look good in the characters, but the writing due to its repetitiveness falters to give them enough space to grow and shine.

First and foremost a young director trying to come up with the epistemological frame work is laudable and commendable attempt, but attempts don’t make for a compelling film. You need to take inspirations and aspire to create a world that feels like your own, for example – Engaeyum Eppothum, Manamantha does have an emotional core and the characters interlinked doesn’t feel like they have been forced  to co-exist. If your point is to say, hatred and love exist and should co-exist in a city this is not the way, you explore your story, characters and screenplay. The narrative structure is the major killing point of any high this flat QS wave does try to show up. Watch it, whenever you feel like you have time to forward and watch it as a 30 min short film.

Survi Review: 1.5/5

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