Cast: Yuthan Balaji, Deekshitha Manikkam, Yogi Babu
Early on in Nagarvalam (Around the City), written and directed by Markx, the hero’s friend (Balasaravanan) makes this comment about a neighbourhood: “Saayam pona undraayar maadhiri irukku” (It looks like a faded undie). You will not find these neighbourhoods in Hindi cinema. These people either. The hero (Kumar, played by Yuthan Balaji) drives a water lorry. Pasupathy makes an appearance in a song, where he bemoans the loss of “Andha kaala Chennai,” the Madras of long-ago. He refers to people like him being pushed further towards the city’s margins.
The scene, then, is set for a movie that could be different, that could make a difference. But this local colour is just the backdrop for a typical romance, powered by memories of Ilaiyaraaja songs. When Janani (Deekshitha Manikkam) passes by Kumar, we hear strains of Ennulle. Later, he imagines them as Rajinikanth and Sridevi, recreating En vaanile from Johny. Looking back is all very good (the story has a heavy Kadhal hangover), but how about making a movie that leaves behind its own memories?
All this second-handedness (plus some dreadful Yogi Babu comedy) comes at the cost of blunting the edges of the really interesting plot points: an assassin who brutalises a prostitute and flings money at her, or the business deal Kumar’s manager is trying to pull off, or the twist involving Janani’s brother.
Things begin to look up with a shock at interval point, one that shows how getting distracted by love can result in gruesome consequences. But this development is callously brushed aside, and we return to the the underwhelming romance, plagued by the traditional ills of micro-budget productions: every department of filmmaking exists at a barely functional level. The last few scenes are marginally gripping, but it is, by then, too little, and too late.
Watch the trailer here: