Director: Manoj Kumar Natarajan
Cast: Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Ramesh Thilak, Kasthuri Shankar
Velvet Nagaram is a clueless film. Following in the footsteps of V1 Murder Case and Rajavukku Check, it is yet another social message film in the guise of a thriller. At least, V1 was a serviceable thriller. Rajavukku Check might not have entertained, but it did effectively talk about its theme. Velvet Nagaram treats its social message with the depth of a flyer advertising a vacant position for a part-time receptionist.
How do you judge a film where nothing ever happens (according to your brain), even though your eyes and ears tell you otherwise? For most of the film, as it restlessly moves around, the camera seems to be mounted on the shoulders of a sparring boxer. It disorients and creates a sense of nausea. This could be interpreted as conveying the chaos of the situation, if only the characters did not just stand around until it is time for them to say their lines.
The film’s beginning is promising. It is a story about two women batting for hill tribes and standing up against the State and corporates. Journalist Usha (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) investigates the murder of social activist Gowri (Kasthuri Shankar) in order to expose the corporate entity responsible for her death. After a couple of hurried scenes about this, Velvet Nagaram quickly becomes an inane film about an irrelevant hostage situation.
Actors often hang about not knowing what to do, and turn inexplicably violent for brief periods before suddenly calming down. Conversations between them get excruciatingly boring as they only either talk about what the viewer already knows, or about something that has nothing to do with the situation. Even they seem to want to take their minds off what is happening.
For most of the film, Varalaxmi is on her knees with her hands tied behind her back. She is being held hostage and contributes little to the fight for her freedom. One couldn’t possibly expect a better performance from her in this film, because, clearly, her hands were tied.
Like a GIF in loop, the same events keep happening over and over (or so it seems) inside the same house until the film’s runtime is exhausted. Instead of a proper closure, the film abruptly winds it all up by getting most characters to either stab or shoot each other. The beginning of the film barely has anything to do with the climax (which is full of loose ends). The middle is a hostage crisis that has little to do with the either the beginning or end.
Right at the end, there is a perfunctory voiceover about the need to preserve our hills and save tribal people. It sounds forced and phony by this point. A thriller is supposed to make a social message (if there has to be one) interesting to the viewer, and not bank on the message to provide all the entertainment.