Dejavu Movie Review: A Half-Decent Setup Gets Lost In A Sea of Contrivances, Film Companion

Cast: Arulnithi, Madhoo, Achyuth Kumar, Ragav Vijay, Smruthi Venkat, Chetan, Kali Venkat

Director: Arvindh Srinivasan

It might not be an entirely original idea but it’s kind of cool for a thriller to begin with a pulp fiction writer confessing to a police officer that he’s being hounded by the fictional characters he’s written. It’s part Stranger Than Fiction, part Weird Science when the whole State of Tamil Nadu waits for novelist Subramani’s (Achyut Kumar) every new word to figure out what happened to a missing woman. This isn’t just any woman—she’s the daughter of the DGP (an out-of-place Madhoo) and the fact that the police cannot track her makes the case sensational for the media and an embarrassment for the force. With this flight of fancy, we’re primed for an investigative thriller that needs a sort of magic for the screenplay to move forward.

It’s a perfectly workable setup placed in a perfectly workable scenario. By taking the conflict of this writer and by placing it into the context of the whole State machinery, the film makes a vague, esoteric issue into everyone’s issue. The writer-director doubles down on this by introducing a secret agent named Vikram (Arulnithi) who the DGP contacts to bring back her daughter and we also get an action sub-plot. On one side is Vikram placing the film in a realistic world with real-world problems, even as the other keeps peeping into Subramani’s notes for what’s going to happen next.

This is also where the screenplay starts to wobble. After investing so much time for such a setup, you expect the film to go all out and push this conceit to take us new to new places. At first, every word the novelist writes truly matters in the scheme of things, but with each passing scene, it recedes to the background, first as a recurring joke and later, as a complete distraction.

 

This becomes far more frustrating when the idea is almost entirely abandoned to backtrack on this fantastical idea to make it seem plausible. By doing this, it’s removing the only aspect of the film that sets it apart from the hundreds of other films that talk about similar cases and the investigation that follows.

Dejavu Movie Review: A Half-Decent Setup Gets Lost In A Sea of Contrivances, Film Companion

But this isn’t the only issue. The film then transforms into a series of contrivances that are written around giving you one twist after another. For instance, the film breaks for the interval with a corpse being fished out of a lake. Given that the film until then was about finding a missing woman, it’s done intentionally to create an event. But the way even this moment is tossed aside, without anything further being mentioned about this body removes any tension the screenplay was about to create for itself. If the film doesn’t care about the missing woman, why should we? These contrivances keep coming and somewhere in its effort to shock us, we stop caring anymore even when it has a valid point to make about encounter killings.

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