Director: Milind Rau
Cast: Nayanthara, Ajmal Ameer, Manikandan
Milind Rau's Netrikann (The Third Eye) is a good example of how one gets an adaptation just right. It is based on the 2011 Korean film Blind, but the process of rooting the story in Chennai feels seamless and organic to the point that you forget it is a remake. Take for instance the angle that gives the film its emotional core. Durga (a solid Nayanthara), gets into an accident while driving home her foster brother Aditya and she ends up losing both him and her eyesight. Having grown up in an orphanage, he was the closest she had to family and when she invariably becomes responsible for his death, it makes an already traumatic event even more painful.
The accident makes her incapable of performing her duty as a CBI officer, which means that there's literally nothing for her to look forward to. So when she gets into the wrong car on a rainy night, the visually-impaired Durga becomes the only witness to a serial killer everyone's on the lookout for. The basic plot line sounds like it can work in any language but the difference is how the makers were able to see a solid 'mass hero' movie beneath the framework of a generic thriller.
One cannot doubt Netrikann's mass masala pedigree because the film subverts what's essentially the biggest staple of the genre — the "thangachi" sentiment. But with THE Lady Superstar at the helm, the film needs a rejig and the result is even more interesting. What we get is a rare film where a female star is finally given a chance to save the life of her younger male sibling. Maybe a small step for man but this is technically a giant leap for womankind. What this akka-thambi angle also adds is an emotional arc for Durga, because the film is as much a tale about second chances and redemption as it is about finding a serial killer.
The plot also widens to accommodate many, thrilling mass moments. We get an expletive-heavy punch speech where Durga questions a man's right to harm any kind of woman. We also get damn good action blocks that work even on an idea level for the mass movie template. But the difference here is the way we never question Durga's vulnerabilities. She never comes across as invincible as a male star would, so we're right with her when she's stuck with the villain or when she has to take risks.
What this adds to the film is the extra thrill of realising that the protagonist's problems cannot be solved by muscle power. Human errors lead to botched opportunities and we get the feeling that we're dealing with a formidable bad guy who cannot be taken lightly.
But the intensity of such heavy duty characters doesn't mean the film has no space for comedy. We get a hilarious segment that involves Durga having to act as though she can see. It works twice as well thanks to an excellent cameo by Redin Kingsley. Even Manikandan, who plays an investigating officer, shares comedic duties to keep the film light when it can afford to be.
Yet it's the portions that fall somewhere between the thrilling action blocks and light comedic stretches that makes one feel the two-hour twenty minute running time. The serial killer's lair and his modus operandi never feels as threatening as it is intended to be and Ajmal's just-about functional performance does little to add more than what's on the screenplay level. Even the character's tacky flashback does nothing for the film's world and one wonders why makers don't trust the audience to just get it, even without an elaborate origin story.
One requires a certain amount of patience towards the middle but the payoff is both surprising as well as rewarding. The score and sound design, editing and the camera-work merge beautifully in the film's climactic portions to give us a film that can handle mass moments, stressful action scenes and sincere sentimentality with a high level of dexterity. Netrikann would have been a lot more fun in the theatre but even on the small screen, it's got a lot you never see coming.