Director: K. Thirugnanam
Cast: Trisha, Nandha, Vela Ramamoorthy, Richard Rishi
Actress Trisha’s 60th outing is a medical-political Tamil thriller, Paramapadham Vilayattu (Game of Snakes and Ladders), helmed by K Thirugnanam. Trisha, who plays Dr Gayathri, engages us with a nuanced performance. Her earlier work, 96, with Vijay Sethupathi, is still fresh in my memory. Her emotive range here was amazing.
Thirugnanam’s work, now streaming on Disney+Hotstar (after the Coronavirus pandemic inordinately delayed the film’s theatrical release), seems a trite too long even with its 120-minute run time. A number of scenes could have been excised or shortened, and pray, what was the need to include a “item number”, and this arrives at a most crucial juncture, interrupting the flow. Do Indian movies even care to remember that there is someone called an editor?
What pulls the work further down is the uninspiring casting with the exception of Vela Ramamoorthy, who as Chezhiyan, the leader of a political party hoping to win the coming elections in Tamil Nadu, exudes a dignity rarely seen in Tamil cinema.
The plot is waver thin. Chezhiyan’s son, Tamizh (Nandha, at his wooden best), has been kept away from the dirty game of politics. He is trained to be a doctor and has settled in London, all set to open his own hospital. But when his father suddenly falls ill and remains in critical care, Tamizh rushes back into what appears like a ring of conspiracy woven around the political leader. The party is faction ridden with a rebel hoping that Chezhiyan would die.
But Dr Gayathri, who is charge of Chezhiyan, is not going to let that happen, and she, who is a single parent with a little deaf-mute girl, manages to turn the leader around. His condition begins to improve, and it comes as a rude shock to her when he dies of a cardiac arrest.
Obviously, Gayathri has strong suspicions that the man was murdered. She starts to investigate and her doubts seem vindicated when his blood reports do not indicate a natural death. What is more, a chip hidden inside the room where political leader lay has a revelation to offer, but before the doctor can watch what is inside it, her daughter is kidnapped, and she is taken prisoner. And then begins a game of snakes and ladders, and we see how the fortunes of the players rise and fall – much like what happens on the board.
It is not difficult to guess who the villain of the piece is, who the killer is, and with the story and script trying hard to lead us on, the climax begins to appear discernible much before the last images roll on. Many Indian thrillers have not quite graduated from a narrative style that is outdated. Today, it is not easy to lead a viewer with archaic story-telling methods.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is movie critic and author)