Jayam Ravi in Siren
Jayam Ravi in SirenYouTube screengrab

Siren review: Jayam Ravi-Keerthy Suresh pull off a refreshing revenge thriller

While ‘Siren’ does have all the cliches of a story about a man falsely accused of murder trying to prove his innocence, it is the execution of these time-tested tropes that makes it stand out.
Siren (Tamil)(3 / 5)

Trouble seems to follow Thilaga Varman (Jayam Ravi), a middle-aged man out on a two-week parole to visit his ailing father in Kancheepuram. Accused of killing his wife Jennifer (Anupama Parameswaran) and father to a teenage daughter (Malar) who wants nothing to do with him, one would expect Thilagan to go to the ends of the Earth to redeem his lost reputation. But debut filmmaker and writer Antony Bhagyaraj’s Siren takes a different route. While the film does have all the cliches of a story about a man falsely accused of murder trying to prove his innocence, it is the execution of these time-tested tropes that makes Siren stand out. 

Thilagan, who was an ambulance driver before he was arrested, gets a lukewarm welcome from his family after spending 14 years in prison. As he tries to stay put and sign attendance every day at the Kancheepuram police station, Anbazhagan (Ajay), one of his own aides, hatches a parallel plan to murder a local politician named Manickam (Azhagam Perumal). Meanwhile, Thilagan befriends his parole officer Velankanni (Yogi Babu) and soon enough, Manickam meets his fate. Despite having little to do with Manickam and his death, Thilagan becomes uneasy. The rest of Siren follows how Thilagan is embroiled in subsequent murders that shake the town as he battles the ghosts of his past. 

Siren is a revenge drama that employs an unconventional route in its treatment. The first half of the film is riddled with red herrings to mislead the audience, and it takes a while to catch on to what is happening.Smaller characters who become crucial to the murder mystery are introduced subsequently, at a decent pace, so as to not confuse the audience.

But while Siren is engaging and thwarts one’s speculations about the plot, it also becomes a tad confusing after a point. For instance, there are attempts to make Thilagan morally grey, but his preachy one-liners undo this effort. So, is Thilagan really a ‘bad’ person pretending to be ‘good’ or vice-versa? One can never guess! 

Jayam Ravi as Thilagan is well cast and effortlessly pulls off a broken man who is only a shell of his former self. While there are humorous quips between him and Velankanni in the first half, the new version of Thilagan pales in comparison to who he was before his wife died. Jayam Ravi’s transformation from the time of Thilagan’s wife’s death towards the other half of the story feels natural and is laudable. Yogi Babu’s Velankanni brings a dose of witty one-liners and occasional slapstick humour that he is best known for. One can breathe a sigh of relief that the punchlines made at Velankanni’s expense do not mock his appearance, which has been common in several movies featuring Yogi Babu.

Keerthy Suresh’s Nandini is a police inspector at the station that Thilagan has to sign every day. Stiff-lipped, sharp, and intelligent, Nandini is a force to be reckoned with. While she can handle murder cases deftly, Nandini could have easily been played by a man. Her character would have benefitted from small insights into what it means to be a woman in a profession that is still largely a boys’ club. However, Keerthy pulls off the no-nonsense cop easily for the most part. 

Jennifer’s character is interesting but remains underdeveloped as she is killed off pretty early into her role. Her death is written to be emotionally evocative but there is no real reason to root for her because the audience was just getting acquainted. Consequently, the romance between Thilagan and Jennifer also feels forced.  

While Siren works as a thriller, several ‘social messages’ in it feel forced. For instance, in the second half of the film, a few veiled references are made to the killing of the 21-year-old Dalit student Gokulraj in Tiruchengode by a Gounder (dominant caste) man Yuvaraj, in 2015. Gokulraj was allegedly killed for speaking to his classmate Swathi, who was also from Yuvaraj’s caste. While there are spirited anti-caste dialogues from Thilagan, a case of supposed custodial death during Nandini’s past investigation is glossed over. In most cases of custodial deaths and torture in Tamil Nadu, the victims have largely been from marginalised castes. The filmmaker’s choice to condemn caste killings and have a scene where police officers (including Nandini) beat up a suspect feels like lip service to earn anti-caste brownie points. 

GV Prakash’s background score and music add to the emotional quotient of the film. His song when Thilagan sees Malar after 14 years tugs at the heartstrings while the background score adds to the suspense in crucial scenes. Selvakumar SK’s cinematography is praiseworthy for being able to capture a wide range of emotions ranging from fear, anger, and grief. The fight sequences are also well-shot and keep the audience engaged. 

Similarly, there is an attempt to be more inclusive of persons with hearing and speech disabilities. Instead of using Indian Sign Language (ISL) to communicate with them, hand movements denoting the spoken words are used. This also feels like a half-baked attempt at inclusion with not enough research or sensitivity toward fleshing out characters with disabilities.

Despite a few glaring downers, Siren is a tightly written thriller. The film maintains balance despite its cliches, making it an entertaining, engaging watch. 

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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