'Nerkonda Paarvai' movie review: Ajith's intense courtroom drama ticks all the right boxes

Ajith in ‘Nerkonda Paarvai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Traditionally, the title of a Tamil ‘mass hero’ film conveys very little. It typically is the name of the lead character (as has been the case with many Rajinikanth films) or something that would describe one outstanding quality of the lead protagonist.

But when was the last time, really, that we had a lyrical title for a film starring a 'mass hero'?

The remake of Hindi superhit Pink in Tamil is called Nerkonda Paarvai, something that a lyricist like Thaamarai might have come up with for a romantic song in a Gautham Menon film. But in this H Vinoth-directorial (he’s the man who gave us the riveting cop thriller Theeran: Adhigaaram Ondru), the title is about the society’s collective gaze on women.

Or could it about that piercing gaze of Bharath Subramaniam (Ajith Kumar) who does nothing but that, for the first 15 minutes into the film? He has recently moved into a residential complex, and across the road stay Meera Krishnan (Shraddha Srinath), Famita (Abhirami Venkatachalam) and Andrea (Andrea Tariang). The film, post an opening musical festival song, kickstarts with quite some intrigue: the three girls seem anxious, while elsewhere, three boys are driving away, with one of them severely injured in the head and bleeding.

Nerkonda Paarvai
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: H. Vinoth
  • Cast: Ajith Kumar, Shraddha Srinath, Abhirami Venkatachalam, Andrea Tariang, Vidya Balan
  • Storyline: A retired lawyer has to help out three girls who have been sexually assaulted by three young men

The music keeps getting ominous even as we get hints on what happened. The girls’ landlord gets a phone call from a stranger threatening him to vacate them from the premises, and he checks on them; him ringing the doorbell almost rudely cuts into their laughter. Little do they know that it is probably the last time they will share such cheerful banter.

Without actually throwing too much light on the incident in question, Nerkonda Paarvai — much like the original — sharpens its focus by concentrating on the unnerving plight of the three girls who are caught in an issue they don’t know the way out of. At first, they don’t really trust Bharath Subramaniam, but after they get some insight into his past, they gradually start believing in him.

The first half clearly establishes the characters, with Nerkonda Paarvai’s refusal to bow down to the ‘star status’ of its leading man clearly showing. When the ‘mass sequence’ arrives, it does so in typical Tamil cinema style, but the justification saves it. There is even a bike sequence that his fans will undoubtedly love, but all these segments will only get us ready for the real heavy-lifting scenes inside the courtroom.

When Bharath steps into court to argue this case, he isn’t confident. He fumbles. He has no pointers when it’s time for him to speak.

It’s quite refreshing to see him struggle. Ajith’s a star and someone who has thulped a dozen guys barely a scene ago, but inside a courtroom — an environment he’s been away from for a while — he is clearly Bharath, the once-glorious lawyer who is as impassive as the cockroach that’s crawling up one of the court benches.

The court sequences are where Ajith displays a quiet confidence, something that we haven’t quite seen in his last few projects. In stark contrast to him is the opposition lawyer, played by news anchor Rangaraj Pandey, whose character is pretty much an extension of him on television. He is undoubtedly loud, but in a few scenes, he’s so good that we hate him.

What doesn’t work in Nerkonda Paarvai are the portions featuring Vidya Balan. While the pairing is endearing, it doesn’t quite sit with the narrative; it seems forced and feels like an afterthought.

The courtroom sequence dialogues and the other girls make up for it though; both Shraddha and Abhirami get one meaty scene that they ace. With Andrea, the film explores the discrimination people from the North East face down south, but it doesn’t linger on it. The film quickly moves on to its moot point — a woman’s consent — and it’s something that is repeated in full measure (and quite rightly so).

When a mass star like Ajith says ‘no means no’ to youngsters, it doesn’t come across as just a message. It’s a statement, and one that clearly needs to be heard in all the nooks and corners of Tamil Nadu.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 12:31:42 AM |

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