'Imaikkaa Nodigal' review: Nayanthara, Anurag Kashyap are great, but script is lacking

While the plot has some interesting twists and Anurag Kashyap proves to be a creepy villain, the script needed more depth.
'Imaikkaa Nodigal' review: Nayanthara, Anurag Kashyap are great, but script is lacking
'Imaikkaa Nodigal' review: Nayanthara, Anurag Kashyap are great, but script is lacking
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Ajay Gnanamuthu's Imaikkaa Nodigal begins with a kidnapping and murder. Unlike most thrillers about serial killers, the criminal doesn't hide in the shadows. We know right from the opening sequence that it is 'Rudra', played by Anurag Kashyap. Or do we?

Tamil films have often faltered when it comes to casting the villain, especially when he happens to be a Bollywood import. But Anurag Kashyap, despite the broad strokes with which his character is painted, manages to be creepy with his bulbous eyes and enunciation of a language that's not his mother tongue. The camera appears to be in love with every minute expression of his, and the lazy drawl he employs is quite effective.

The killer's opponent in the game is CBI officer Anjali, played by a sophisticated Nayanthara (one wishes she had on less make-up and a pair of practical shoes as opposed to the high heels though). With its lengthy run-time of close to three hours, you wonder where the film is going, considering that the big reveal has already been made at the beginning. But Ajay has a few tricks up his sleeve, some of which work, while some tend to get tedious. The 'big reveal'  it turns out, was a red herring all along and there are a few surprises ahead in the plot.

Ajay is at the top of his game when it comes to staging chase sequences or action scenes. But the rest of the film suffers from poor writing. The romance track between Arjun (Atharvaa) and Krithika (Raashi Khanna), especially, is a drag. They meet and fall in love before having a single decent conversation and every line they exchange from then on borders on the melodramatic – all their conversations are about how they'd die without each other and it's hard to sit through these portions without appropriate eye-rolls.

While Raashi still manages to bring some warmth to her face, Atharvaa looks like a deer caught in the headlights, employing a wide-eyed stare nearly all through the film. And since this sub-plot keeps coming in the way of the more exciting track with a better set of actors, you start feeling impatient about the juvenile love story.

The romance between Vikramadityan (Vijay Sethupathi in a cameo) and Anjali is written in a similar vein, but Vijay Sethupathi makes it work because that's just how good he is. You can give him the cheesiest lines and he'll say them in a way that makes you feel something. The man can be charming even if you give him a really bad hairstyle.

But what of the investigation, the fulcrum of the film? There are some twists that are interesting but once again, the writing barely scratches the surface. Take for example Anjali briefing her fellow CBI officers about serial killers – the lone example she picks is that of Jack the Ripper and they listen to her as if this is completely new information. The CBI does not have a stellar reputation, true, but this is a bit much!

Little slip-ups like this tend to reduce our willingness to suspend disbelief, and the film would have greatly benefited from some ground research. For example, it's pretty implausible that law enforcement officers allow a media circus on a flyover when there's a ticking bomb just a few metres away. Or that the police will allow a dangerous suspect on whose name there's a shoot-at-sight order, to meet his friends coolly at the hospital where he's been admitted. Or that media channels will be allowed to beam out highly sensitive information about a law and order situation without any intervention whatsoever.

It's also puzzling that Anjali and her fellow officers kick into high gear only when the next murder takes place. How about doing some good old investigation when you have a still-warm dead body at hand? Kashyap delivers a lengthy monologue about the chase between a lion and a hyena but it is this thrill of a chase that's missing from the film.

The little girl who plays Anjali's daughter, however, is a scream – she's one of those mini-adult child characters we've seen in one too many films, but she's quite convincing in her role as a spirited brat. It's encouraging to see a Tamil film with a single mother CBI officer as the main lead, and for that, Imaikkaa Nodigal certainly deserves a pat. And thank you for not making the kid a bait to milk some tears from the audience.

Vigilante justice and an emotionally manipulative "reason" for extreme violence have been normalised in Tamil films several times over and Imaikkaa Nodigal isn't smart enough to avoid this pitfall. That said, the film has enough going for it to keep things moving, including Hip Hop Tamizha's background score. The song placement, too, isn't distracting.

As it stands, Imaikkaa Nodigal is a fairly competent thriller with a bunch of good ideas. But it needed more flesh to really make our skin crawl.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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