Some months ago there was this Tamil film called Thaa, with a poignant script and an unexpected finale. Sadly, it sank without a trace. The similarity between Varnam and Thaa lies in not just the linear narration of the protagonist but also in the suspense pertaining to his present state, commendably kept under wraps till the very end.

Apt casting lends plausibility to the story of Varnam. Monica as the school teacher Kavitha and Ashwatha as the student Thangam are examples.

Selected for the London Asian and Montreal World Film Festivals 2011, Varnam has an imposing technical credit in the form of its composer, Thomas Kottukapally, whose music won him the National Award for Adaminte Makan Abu. The Malayalam film is this year's official entry to the Oscars.

Several characters stomp the screen, yet performances are generally passé. Sampath, who plays Durai, a businessman with strong grey shades, and Vijay as Nanda, a sufferer in a place where caste differences rule, are exceptions. You last saw Vijay in Then Maerku Paruvakaatru as Saranya's son. He is quite effective even in a much smaller role this time in Varnam.

It is to the credit of director S.M. Raju that he hasn't allowed harangues on societal evils and explicitly preachy messages to come in the way of his storytelling. Sensibly, the first timer has left it to the viewer to draw inferences.

Merits apart, Varnam boasts of a strong storyline. It is the screenplay that lacks punch. Unwarranted, repetitive cuts to the past, which convey nothing new, wrongly placed song sequences, lengthy beside-the-point scenes and inexplicable sombreness are marring factors. The initial interest in the intrigue dwindles into boredom when the Muniyandi dance sequence gets elongated. The irrelevance tries your patience. Surprisingly, five writers have worked on the line, script and dialogue!

Clearly Varnam's problem lies in the treatment.

Varnam

Genre: Thriller

Director: S.M. Raju

Cast: Sampath, Monica, Giri, Vijay

Storyline: A 17-year old narrates a tale of love, hate, violence and … murder.

Bottomline: Fest-ward Ho!

Keywords: Varnam review