Mathu Vadalara: Shake up the booze
Star Cast: Sri Simha, Naresh Agastya, Satya, Atulya Chandra, Vidyulleka Raman, Vennela Kishore, Pavala Syamala
Cinematography by Suresh Sarangam
Edited by Karthika Srinivas
Music Composed by Kaala Bhairava
Written & Directed by Ritesh Rana
One cannot really fathom how much a simple thriller be spoilt due to incoherent narrative structure that doesn’t let you connect with characters. Either you’re in with the ride or you’re out. There is no mid-way in a narrative that is highly dependent on being swaggy than relative, highly manipulative than constructive and organic. In a thriller, escalation of each situation is much more important and the logic riddled strong sense must prevail throughout. You cannot have a horse for the courses kind of a way to handle things as it allows you to “commercialize” the material. In fact, the impact gets diluted as if we are using a spoon full of table salt in a big jug of water to make lemonade. It just isn’t enough.
Here, Ritesh Rana failed to connect us with the characters of the leads. We see them as one tight-knit group but the issues aren’t even hinted. In one funny scene, the writer tries to pass it off as comedy, but he gave a hint about Abhi‘s character, who likes to eat from other’s plates, even though everyone is hungry. Such a person, won’t bring the other two back to the crime scene but looks to cover his basic tracks. With drug packets in their pockets and small bundles of cash, both the delivery boys will look more guilty than him. Even if police try to trace him out, with the money, he has in his hands, he can start a new life.
This will be the first thought of such a highly cunning person than trying to create an elaborate crime scene. Very conveniently, Ravi’s flat is covered with CCTV cameras, while any nosy person can say Ravi might be too paranoid and think about calling cops, on him. You may say no one will ever try to be such nosy but Vidyulleka Raman’s character is such a person and even Ravi might allow her in normal circumstances. And Abhi doesn’t suspect that she knows their meth-cooking lab at all in the film. Again, a character who could have held the narrative tight and consistent is ignored for a new twist. A thriller doesn’t just go on in a different direction with new twists.
Andhadhun is the best example for how a thriller can be structured. It gives time for all the elements to sink into the public and then explodes. Here, Abhi suddenly becomes a detective like Sherlock and suddenly becomes a Breaking Bad professor. The consistency that a thriller needs to be mounted on is so mish-mashed that we feel the writer was in a drugged state than the characters. Nothing seems to really work after a point as it is blown out of proportion with each next scene. The twist seems outlandish as the adjoining portions are just explained in passing dialogues.
This doesn’t give depth to the thriller and doesn’t construct character arcs. It feels like a giant wheel that goes to the top and comes down in circle just there itself while those who are in the ride are feeling the excitement, outsiders watch it in awe or just move on. A good narrator makes you a rider on the giant wheel while a bad one keeps you one km away. Ritesh Rana started off his film as a person who is trying to make you a rider but then he felt you paid the only amount and hence, he left you in the middle hanging dry, in the mid-air.
Shot making makes you a good director but a narrator understands how consistent he or she should be. If you cannot find a way for people to connect with your story, everything falls apart. Like a scene where you get loads and loads of exposition about Abhi being a meth cooker feels random than a well-constructed twist. A man who is so passionately bad doesn’t try to use his friends as lab rats but is convinced that they will turn out to be just so naive as they thought they would be. His character flaws aren’t established for us to go back and connect. So, randomly hero turns into an investigator, his best friend turns into a good man and his other best friend turns into a crude guy. You might have constructed a castle in your head but when it comes out so weak and meek that it transforms into a sandcastle, nobody can really appreciate your hard work. Slow-mo shots, cool techniques and pushing the characters into a drug-induced state, might open up an interesting conversation by people who are in awe of technique but content can never be overpowered by technique. After a while, content stays with you like a good book or lesson but technique dilutes as an innovation pops up. The booze, that is, writing power and imagination really needed a huge shakeup as it seemed good enough to come up with new jokes but failed at coherence.