Systemic corruption and violence in agencies such as the police has been a long-time favourite subject of filmmakers in India. Vetrimaaran, through Visaranai, has managed to go beyond a mere bird's-eye view, portraying an honest tale of custodial violence as well as political pressures on the police.
Having seen and heard of several films that cater to a rather exalted image of the police and other such institutions, Visaranai, for me, was a breakthrough film that induced introspection on the ideals of custodial violence, police brutality and the like. It represented films as a medium of attempting to begin difficult negotiations on those matters/ideas we praise and celebrate.
Visaranai presented a mirror to reflect the behaviour we have been conditioned to glorify. Drawing inspiration from the book Lock-Up, Visaranai raises important questions on custodial violence and its "democratic" nature. We almost instinctively feel the pain felt by Pandi and his friends while being beaten for a crime they did not commit but are being forced to admit to. The film does not toy with dramatic entries of policemen, saving people from the "menace" of society. Instead, we see selfish men, lusting for power, sucking up to politicians.
The film tells a gripping tale, each scene leaving us wanting to know more; what is usually spelt out in films is instead shown in an elusive, introspective manner – the sly smile of Vishweshwar Rao (Ajay Gosh), a cop, before entering the station, a smile that's enough to make us hate him through his barbaric behaviour.
The film showcases the political reality of most institutions; each individual merely a pawn in a dangerous game, the winners being the ones with power in their hands. A sense of hopelessness takes us over as we see Inspector Muthuvel (Samuthirakani) sink into his chair, realising that he was part of a game, one where his stakes were gravely high.
While most cop dramas or thrillers grow to be all-consuming based on chest-thumping physicality and whistles, Visaranai tells a strong, yet subtle tale: Afzal's innocence through the film is endearing, especially when he asks if they are being taken to be killed, almost like animals on the way to an abattoir.
The ending was an excellent inanimate 'et tu Brute' moment (spoiler ahead), created by a chilling voiceover, telling us that both the tasks had been done: the first, of killing the migrant workers and the second, of killing Inspector Muthuvel himself. In tune with the film's black and grey narrative, it does not attempt to play on any tropes of an optimistic ending. Vetrimaaran leaves us with nothing but guilt and a steadily growing dislike for the system.