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‘Velvet Nagaram’ movie review: Varalaxmi struggles in a movie that is both confusing and patchy

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar in ‘Velvet Nagaram’

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar in ‘Velvet Nagaram’  

Manojkumar Natarajan seems clueless about his own material, and the amateurish way of handling suspense is both derivative and simplistic, despite a potent subject at the centre

They say that the first 20 minutes of a movie would determine if you are really into it or not. I reject Brotman’s Law when it comes Tamil cinema. For me, what matters is the opening sequence — if it begins with an aerial shot showing the vast expanse of a picturesque location or a locality, I’m already out. Sure, there have been movies that have had absurd opening shots but turned out surprisingly good by the end of it.

Velvet Nagaram opens with a drone-shot of wildfire in Kodaikanal and a voice-over on the atrocities faced by the tribal community inhabiting the region. What did I just say in the previous paragraph? It is a dull scene that sets precedent for a duller movie. You sense a lack of interest — both in the actors and the director — right from the start. What is even more distressing is the lethargic attitude of the director who seems to reject the notion of what is called as plot building exercise. We are absolutely dependent on dialogues to understand what is happening on screen and between the characters.

Velvet Nagaram
  • Cast: Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Maalavika Sundar, Ramesh Thilak, Kasturi Shankar and Santhosh Krishna
  • Director: Manojkumar Natarajan
  • Storyline: A journalist’s life is at stake when she uncovers a dark truth about Kodaikanal forest fire, fuelled by a corporate giant with the Government’s hand in it. What extent would she go, to save her life and to expose the truth?

Allow me to give you a sample of this. Social activist and actor Gowri (Kasturi Shankar) has been brutally killed for discovering a vital piece of information about the Kodaikanal forest fire. She claims it was orchestrated by a corporate giant called Advaita and not a natural disaster. There isn’t visual evidence to substantiate her argument. We are told who she is and what she does through a phone call that she has with her friend Usha (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar). Now, you are like: “Who is Usha, dude?” Don’t worry, says the director. In the next scene, we are told who Usha is. When she goes to the crime scene, we learn that she is a journalist. You heave a sigh of relief. However, you are still divided on whether she is an investigative journalist or a talk show host. You put those thoughts aside, but soon realise that Velvet Nagaram is as messed up as Usha’s one-dimensional character.

Just when you are about to come to a conclusion that it is going to be a murder-mystery, it goes into a different territory and becomes another movie — like a home-invasion thriller. I, for one, didn’t see that coming. But does it achieve that? No. Take Ashwin Saravanan’s Game Over, which is a far superior movie and dealt with a similar premise. Everything was crystal clear on paper, even though it had a twisted narrative structure. But here, everything is hastily put together. New characters, who have no relevance to the larger design of the movie, are thrown into the proceedings. Maybe I didn’t follow what transpired in-between (let me confess; I dozed off for like a solid five minutes). Velvet Nagaram still could have been a watchable home invasion thriller had it not been bogged down by lazy writing.

Manojkumar Natarajan claims to be Quentin Tarantino’s fan and you understand why. His directorial debut comes across as the work of an independent filmmaker, given its patchy look and feel. The movie, in fact, begins with QT’s quote: “I steal from every great movie ever made.” Sometimes, it is absolutely okay to lift ideas provided the movie is engaging on some level.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 10:05:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/velvet-nagaram-movie-review-varalaxmi-struggles-in-a-movie-that-is-both-confusing-and-patchy/article30998790.ece

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