There’s nothing like a good thriller. And I believe, as audiences mature, delivering one that manages to keep them on the edge is quite the challenge. Most thrillers with psycho killers are at some point predictable – and for a thriller movie junkie like myself, the acquired knowledge can immediately join the dots, zeroing in on the killer, their motive, backstory, etc. dousing the thrill altogether. In that sense, director Ramkumar’s Ratsasan fares much better, retaining the suspense almost to the very end.
The story is religiously in line with how psycho thrillers work. A disfigured body of a young girl is found on the banks of a river. Soon after, there’s another, leading the police to believe that there’s a killer on the loose. Who the killer is and what their intent is forms the rest of the story.
The film’s posters and trailers had us believing that Arun (Vishnu Vishal at his best) is a cop. Therefore, the first five minutes of the film will take you by surprise when it is revealed that Arunkumar is actually an aspiring filmmaker who ends up becoming a police officer only reluctantly.
It is quite amusing when we realise that the director has looked no further than his own life while writing the first few scenes. Arun has literally devoured all the serial killings that have taken place in real life (his walls are plastered with newspaper clippings of such incidents) and passionately tries to find a producer for his ‘psycho-killer’ story.
When things do not work out very well for him, he ends up applying for a police job at the behest of his mother and brother-in-law (Munishkanth Ramdoss) who is also a police officer. With his late father being a cop, he gets in easily, becoming a sub Inspector. While this backstory works, the fact that Arun’s very first case just happens to be up his alley (psycho killings) seems more convenient than real. Our hero, therefore, is an ordinary guy who rises to the occasion with an obsession for the truth (a lot like Robert Graysmith from Zodiac).
The story of Ratsasan is tautly strung. When the police figure out there’s a serial killer on the prowl, Arun, who’s an underdog, persuades them to take an unconventional route. This sets the pace for a cat-and-mouse chase that’s extremely well packed.
Another thing that surprisingly works for Ratsasan, is how it feels like a mix of all the psycho killer films you’ve seen before - there’s also a Buffalo Bill moment. How can this possibly work? With an assortment of thriller elements, it leads you on in one direction before dangerously swerving onto another, keeping its tautness intact. While these are tried and tested thrills, the way in which it has been presented is what works for this film.
The child abuse angle has been very sensibly done and this is another thing that works for the film. The romance angle between Arun and Viji (Amala Paul) is very gradual and is not overdone making it one of the most realistic portrayals in recent times.
All the child actors have done their part very well. Even though their screen time is brief, their performances have lifted the film’s pace. The film also has a good number of gripping moments, like when the girl pauses briefly before closing the doors, when Viji tries to tell Arun about the auto and when the lorry arrives at the wrong moment almost have you on the edge of your seat.
The visuals in Ratsasan at no point irk you and this is an interesting change in a psycho-thriller film. Music director Ghibran has done a great job in infusing the thrill into his music, keeping us hooked to the moment.
The first half might seem like a stretch and falters in establishing an emotional connect with its lead, mainly because it jumps into the psycho killer angle early on. That being said, a little more of character establishment could’ve lifted the entire script.
Munishkanth Ramdoss, Suzane George and Kaali Venkat have done a great job with their roles. However, Suzane’s character as an egoistic superior gets annoying after a point and seems like a character solely written to boost up the lead. The Ratsasan in the film could have had better make-up and this shoddy detailing brings down the excitement of the big reveal. The climax too seems like a bit of a stretch and its pace falters after we know who the killer is. On the whole, Ratsasan is a good thriller in recent times but goes slightly overboard towards the end.
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.