Cast: Gautham Vasudev Menon, G.V. Prakash Kumar, Varsha Bollamma
Director: Mathi Maran
There is something odd about the GV Prakash Kumar and Gautham Vasudev Menon starrer Selfie. It is rooted, twisty, action-packed, and even clever in parts. Yet, as I watched it, I couldn't shake the feeling of unbearable exhaustion. For a run time of just over two hours, it felt like I watched the film forever, it was tiresome.
Selfie is the story of Kanal (GV Prakash Kumar), an engineering student who falls into the big bad world of selling college seats illicitly. In this journey, he comes to meet Ravi Varma (Gautham Vasudev Menon), who is the incumbent kingpin of illicit college seat sales. How the myriad people in the picture double-cross each other and who dies, in the end, makes the rest of the film.
To writer-director Mathi Maran's credit, he keeps Selfie within the boundaries of its narrative. The film doesn't go far beyond college campuses, student quarters and some houses. The characters, as many as there are, have a role to play in moving the story forward — some of the callbacks are interesting too. The songs complement the proceedings on screen, even if the mass-hero background score feels out of rhythm with the rest of the film.
The dialogues are especially noteworthy. Not only because so much of it has been muted, presumably on kind advice by the CBFC, but also because the lines that are left aren't very palatable either. I would have argued that conversations are natural, without the overly scripted nature that is common to our movies if only the lip sync was more in order. Mathi Maran also gives into the temptations of a love track, while trying very hard to write a reasonable female human in that role. I couldn't say he succeeds, but full marks for effort.
The problem with Selfie, however, is that it's too dense for its own good. As he's trying to escalate narrative tension, Mathi Maran packs the film with little pieces of action. When they stack up ever so slowly, the film gets exhausting — in a way that one gets tired when too much and too little happen at the same time.
The emotional beats of the film are off too. Deaths, funerals and humiliation barely sting, despite there being an elaborate family story. The character arcs are uneven, perhaps deliberately, but it takes away from the emotional impact of a film so dense.
As if to jump right off the hilltop, Selfie offers a naïve idealist resolution to a systemic problem. And then tops it off with a moral science lesson to boot.