Cinema

Cheekati Rajyam: The night is sinister

Kamal Haasan and Trisha in the film

Kamal Haasan and Trisha in the film  

Broadly speaking, remakes are of two kinds. One that stays faithful to the original to the extent of becoming a frame to frame copy and the other where the makers take the core idea and give it a regional flourish.

Cheekati Rajyam (simultaneously made as Thoongavanam in Tamil), adapted from the French film Nuit Blanche ( Sleepless Night), takes the original storyline and peppers it with asides that one has come to expect from a Kamal Haasan starrer of late.

In the middle of a sequence in a nightclub, a television channel airs a news clipping of a superstar’s film — Panchavataram — running into rough weather. In the bar, a drunk character Subba Rao gloats that it was he who stalled the release and argues why should a superstar give ‘messages’ instead of sticking to song, dance and comedy. That argument is irrelevant to Cheekati Rajyam’s plot but is a throwback to the time when Kamal Haasan’s own films had to cross similar hurdles. This reference to his real life is reminiscent of Uttama Villain, where references to his life and filmography were aplenty.

At its core, Cheekati Rajyam has a simple plot of Diwakar (Kamal Haasan), a cop with Narcotics Control Bureau, having to save his son from the clutches of cocaine peddler and nightclub owner Vittal Rao (Prakash Rao). In the process of doing it, he too comes under the scanner of fellow cops Mallika (Trisha) and Kishore.

Busting the crime network and exposing corrupt cops is one part of the story. Within the framework of a thriller, the makers weave in back stories of pivotal characters. Tumultuous relationships come to the fore. There’s a divorced wife (Asha Sharath) who is still bitter and a son sulking at the workaholic father who doesn’t remember if the boy plays football or cricket.

Most part of the film is within a nightclub and it does get a bit tiring in the later portions. But plenty of smartly-written repartees add to the film’s fun quotient. A junior chef, watching three cops fiercely at each other’s throats, exclaims why they are getting worked up over packets of maida!

Cheekati Rajyam is a slick film with stunt sequences that look real. In how many films have we seen a male and female cop coming to blows with each other, in the process of standing up for what they feel is right? The musical score by Ghibran and the sound recording are top notch. And so is Sanu Varghese’s cinematography.

Attention is paid to little details that one may not consider significant in a passing shot but reflects how this team hasn’t taken the viewers for granted. For instance, the crowd is sparse at the nightclub as the evening begins and as time passes by, there is hardly enough space to navigate. It’s a world where revellers don’t sense something amiss seeing blood-stained clothes or a middle-aged man knocking a door in vain as his son is dragged inside.

Trisha, sporting a no-makeup look, neatly pulls off the stunt sequences and otherwise, puts in a restrained performance. She has little room for histrionics unlike Kamal or Prakash Raj, both proving to be scene stealers. The beautiful Madhu Shalini, Kishore, Yuhi Sethu and Sampath Raj make their presence felt in brief roles.

It’s good to watch Kamal Haasan in a straight Telugu film and the team, in all earnestness, doesn’t pass off anything that looks Tamil as Telugu.

Having watched both versions, the effort is evident. Besides replacing car number plates and re-shooting scenes with dialogues, the team also uses a different actor (Santhana Bharathi in Tamil) for the ‘Subba Rao’ character.

Cheekati Rajyam isn’t really exceptional, going by Kamal Haasan’s oeuvre, but makes for an engaging watch. An assured debut by director Rajesh M. Selva.

Cheekati Rajyam

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Trisha, Prakash Raj

Direction: Rajesh M. Selva

Music: Ghibran

Story line: A cop is running out of time to save his son and bust a crime network.

Bottom line: A stylish cop drama.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 11:42:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cheekati-rajyam-the-night-is-sinister/article7899886.ece

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