In my review of Mimi, I wrote this about Kriti Sanon, "She never registered as an 'actor' in her earlier films, as she looked more like a glamorous presence." I recently started watching The White Lotus, and I found the same to be true for Alexandra Daddario. After seeing Netrikann, I concluded I could repeat the same sentence again for Nayanthara in the film. She commits herself to the role of a visually impaired woman named Durga in this remake of the 2011 South Korean thriller Blind.
Durga was not born like this. After a car accident, she loses her vision, her brother, and her job as a CBI officer. During an optimistic song sequence, she learns to live with her disability and is given a dog, Kanna, to help her with everyday activities like walking on the streets. Along with her day-to-day routine, we learn about a psychopath – played chillingly well by Ajmal Ameer – who is kidnapping and torturing women for kinks. Ameer makes you feel so dirty that you want to reach for a sanitiser whenever he appears on the screen. The performances are the highlights of Netrikann. K. Manikandan as SI Manikandan could have been reduced to just comic relief, but the actor infuses his character with humanity. He declares that everyone would salute him one day, and when that happens, you warmly smile for him.
When these excellent performances combine with some tense scenes, the result is nerve-wracking. You are on edge, biting your teeth, when Durga sits opposite the villain inside a train. You similarly are nervous when she confronts the man in a hospital. We know there is no backup outside, but Durga is unaware of it. You scream, "Abort! Abort! Abort!" inside your head. The film does a really good job of making us care for Durga, and we are always worried about her safety. Not just that, the bad guy here is so, so bad that you fear for every woman in this film.
The main fault with Ameer's character is that he underestimates Durga all the time. Whenever he comes close to her, he fiddles around thinking, "I have captured so many girls. What harm can this blind woman do to me?" His ego renders him physically impotent towards her, which gives way to some near-miss moments. Nayanthara gets whistle-worthy hero moments. Look at her entry shot at a club or listen to her confident response later at a police station, "Hey asshole, you will see all the things I am going to do to you. When I think about that, I feel really sorry for you."
Another impressive thing about Netrikann is how its humour doesn't take us out of the story. When Manikandan asks for Durga's help or when Durga correctly guesses how many fingers a person is holding while blindfolded, you laugh, but you never consider these moments jarring. The tension never dissipates as the villain's menace looms largely over the film. You know you are witnessing the unfolding of a solid thriller when you constantly come close to biting your nails in apprehension; Netrikann is that successful thriller.