Vijay’s Diya: What Works, What Doesn’t, Film Companion
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Diya, earlier titled Karu, is an emotional family drama with subtle horror-thriller elements. Directed by Vijay, the film marks the Tamil debut of Sai Pallavi and Naga Shourya.

The Plot

Thulasi (Pallavi) and Krishna (Shourya) are two 19 year olds who are in a relationship. Thulasi gets pregnant. Her family forces her to undergo an abortion as they decide that it is not feasible for the couple to raise a child at such a young age. Five years later, the two have stable careers and their families consent to their marriage. The spirit of their aborted girl child returns to haunt their lives and exact revenge. The spirit feels a strong connection to its mother, but has a score to settle with those responsible for the abortion.

What Works

  • Director Vijay hasn’t infused the film with needless commercial masala elements, focusing on the core content. The film’s runtime of 1 hour 40 mins is quite a revelation considering usual runtime conventions. Editor Anthony, Vijay’s regular collaborator, also deserves credit for keeping the film flab-free and shunning needless elements.
  • The unassumingly beautiful Sai Pallavi makes an assured Tamil film debut, having already proven her acting calibre in films like Premam, Kali and Fidaa. In Diya, she is largely restrained. She gets to exhibit her range in the emotional scenes with her child and those in which she is desperately trying to save her husband.
  • Sam CS’s background score suits the mood of the film. He has mostly stuck to one signature theme and used variations of it to good effect.
  • The handsome Naga Shourya does a fair job.
  • Director Vijay introduced child artiste Sarah in Deiva Thirumagal, and she later did well in Saivam too. In Diya, he introduces child artiste Veronica, who is cute and does her best with the limited set of expressions that the director demands of her.

What Doesn’t

  • There are a series of deaths in the first half, each caused by a different accident. But, due to a strong sense of predictability, these scenes don’t have the required shock value. The graph is flat. You know what’s coming!
  • The production value is meagre; the film’s shoestring budget shows. The VFX work for one of the accident sequences is tacky.
  • In a serious film like this, RJ Balaji is meant to provide some comedic relief. He plays a timid cop, but the outcome isn’t enjoyable. His transformation to a responsible cop is not convincing.
  • Like last week’s MercuryDiya also force-feeds the audience a message before the end credits roll. Director Vijay dedicates the film to unborn lives. Putting emotions aside, the abortion shown in the film was carried out for valid reasons. A young couple opting to have a child without the means to raise it would have been worse! It is high time our filmmakers stopped spoon feeding us ‘messages’. It’ll be much better if the audience feels an awakening while watching the film, rather than being force-fed such messages, facts and figures.

Final WordDiya isn’t the usual melodramatic horror-thriller which is seen as a safe bet in Tamil cinema. Don’t go in expecting the usual elements! Given its sentimental nature and that it deals with a mother-child relationship, the film is bound to fare better with a family audience.

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