Director: Vicky Anand
Cast: Kalaiyarasan, Sai Dhanshika, Mime Gopi
In Vicky Anand’s Uru (Fear), Kalaiyarasan plays a writer named Jeevan. Early on, we see him waiting outside a publisher’s office, sweat trickling down his forehead. As it turns out, he needn’t have worried. The publisher loves his manuscript. The interaction between Jeevan and his publisher is replayed over the years. Slowly, we see that his books have stopped selling, his style has become stale. The publisher says readers are tired of Jeevan’s stories about family, love, sentiment. He wants something… different.
This is equally true of the movie-going audience, and one of the most heartening trends in Tamil cinema, over the past few years, is the emergence of young filmmakers who want to cut away from cliché and make different kinds of movies. Uru is about Jeevan’s attempts to write a novel about a killer who sees his murders as art. Jeevan tells his wife, Jenny (Sai Dhanshika), that he’s heading to the hills of Megamalai to complete his book, and as anyone who’s seen a Hollywood thriller about secluded writer (say, The Shining, or Secret Window, which this film reminded me a lot of) will tell you, strange things begin to happen.
For instance, whatever Jeevan scrawls on the page finds an echo in real life. He writes a sentence about the time being 7 pm, and the clock strikes 7. He writes about a wind chime, and the one in the room begins to chime. He writes about a masked man by the window, and… BAM! (cue bone-chilling sound effect) there’s one. The director opens his film with a Quentin Tarantino quote: “If a million people see my movie, I hope they see a million different movies.” This isn’t just a cool hat-tip. The story actually encourages you to read the events in various ways, and I’m guessing each one of us is going to settle for the reading that works best.
Everything begins to go wrong when Jeevan smokes a joint, so here’s Theory No. 1: Maybe it’s all a drug-fuelled dream. We do get the scene where Jeevan snaps out of a nightmare and realises it’s just Jenny in front of him. Or is it her dream? Or maybe this is one of those Saw-type thrillers where the killer likes to play savage games. And what about that voodoo doll? Maybe there’s something supernatural going on. After all, many frames are soaked in green lighting, movie shorthand for lurking evil.
The genre thrills are solid. Uru runs a lean 100 minutes, and there are no songs breaking the story. The director hat-tips Tarantino in another way as well: the violence is brutal
Or maybe it’s all a metaphor for an artist’s resentment of being tied down by the demands of family life. Jenny gets a great scene where, after many book-proposal rejections, she decides enough is enough. She tells Jeevan that they cannot think of having a child with just her salary, so he has to forget about writing and art and get an actual job. So maybe it’s Jeevan’s id bursting out from the mirror, like in Fight Club, determined to destroy not just the woman who won’t let him be but womanhood in general. The females in this film do not end up in a nice place. I’m even talking about a female rabbit.
Uru is tricksy as hell, and following one theory results in gaping holes in others. Plus, there’s a bit of cheating. Watch the film and then tell me who slashed Jeevan’s car tyres the first time he drives into a forest. And what’s with the shifty looks the characters keep giving, as though raising a hand for their candidacy as the killer? The writing should have been better. The twists at the end sound nice in theory, but like the killer’s motivation, they would have benefitted from a little more detailing and exposition.
But the genre thrills are solid. Uru runs a lean 100 minutes, and there are no songs breaking the story. The director hat-tips Tarantino in another way as well: the violence is brutal. In most Tamil films, we smell the fake blood from a mile away, but Kalaiyarasan and Sai Dhanshika, here, really seem to be in danger. The latter, especially, gives a fine physical performance. Jenny is smart, sensible — it’s been a while since we saw a heroine so strong. Like the movie, she’s… different.
Watch the trailer here: