Director: Pavel Navageethan
Cast: Ram Arun Castro, Vishnupriya Pillai, Gayathri Raja, Lijeesh
V1: Murder Case written and directed by Pavel Navageetham is a whodunit that gets the audience to sit up and pay attention right from the word go. It’s late into the night and a girl is seen walking back home. Walking turns into running as a faceless man begins to give chase. She gets stabbed multiple on the neck with an unidentifiable sharp object, as she crumbles to the floor knocking on her door.
We then cut to Agni, a trainer at the forensic department, who takes over this murder case when his friend and ex-partner Luna is deputed to investigate it. He’s an expert with a “Raghavan instinct”, someone who can make out the weapon from the bloodstains it leaves on the wall. He can also analyse criminal behaviour through body language and speech patterns. But he’s also got a major secret he’s hiding. He suffers from nyctophophia, or the fear of darkness.
The setup, at least in the first half hour or so, makes for a really compelling case. This is then made better with a watered down version of the Rashomon effect, with different versions of the murder being narrated to fill us in on the gaps of what we already know. But the cracks soon begin to emerge, especially when the film shifts indoors to a series of interrogation scenes.
The primary reason for this is the writing that has gone into the “usual” suspects. The film tries really hard to establish a character you’re meant to think of as the prime suspect. It screams red herring when this suspect is immediately transferred into the interrogation, that too right at the beginning. The makers forget that the audience are, by now, quite sophisticated when it comes to this genre. So its easy to guess that the person who you think did it, wouldn’t have done it.
In V1, we see this happening not once but twice. After the first instance, we see this again, when an utterly caricaturish suspect, written into it as comic relief, is being sold to us as a serious contender. Which means that for a film that’s essentially driven by interrogation scenes, we start off with two prime suspects being easily dismissible as innocents.
Yet we totter along because interesting bits of information are given to us, like how the victim had withdrawn some money, which had gone missing and a case of chain snatching that happened nearby. But the most interesting aspect of the film, which they should really have used well is Agni’s nyctophobia. This is the main point that sets this film apart from most other investigative thrillers. But on those instances when this weakness is attacked, they happen after such a long chase and setup, that we’re already expecting it. Even the tension that should have been obvious in a film about a man who can’t really function after 6PM should really have been more exciting.
The acting is passable at best and the writing too begins to lose focus very soon when it starts using fight scenes that lack logic as mere fillers. We then get Tamil cinema’s favourite exercise with a climax that also includes a lecture. Which is a shame because the idea of a forensic expert with a fear of darkness, that too with a dark backstory, really sounds like it has a lot of potential. If that was the synopsis of a film I’d read on Netflix, I’d watch it any day. But then why does the makes of V1 do so little with it?