If there’s one thing fascinating about reincarnating vengeful spirits, it’s their single-minded focus on the righteous task for which they’ve returned. No time to smell the roses, to see how the world has got on since the last time they were here, since there’s killings to be done, and righteous revenge to be had.
So, while the formula is as old as sliced bread, it’s still engaging thanks to the intensity and focus with which revenge is pursued. Sadly though, the latest edition of this tale, “Saithan”, starring Vijay Antony and directed by Pradeep Krishnamoorthy, seems to be suffering from a particularly disconcerting case of attention deficit disorder.
It’s not as if “Saithan” doesn’t engage at all. Starting with an inspired title sequence that is dreamy and eerie and captivating at once, the film’s breakneck beginning where nothing is revealed and everything is in manic suspense certainly manages to get you hooked.
But when you eventually find out the back story, it just doesn’t seem powerful enough to be worth the trouble of decades’ worth of waiting in simmering anger for justice.
Perhaps director Pradeep realised this at some point during the making of the film. Because halfway through, “Saithan” abruptly shifts track to become a story of an innocent man becoming a guinea pig for a shadowy drug ring.
The problem is, neither the writer nor the director of the film have more than a passing acquaintance with the idea of what a nefarious drug ring should look like. So, the members of this one spend almost all their time hanging around in some abandoned building, more often killing off potential customers with an intense but deadly new drug.
Watching their operation unfold, you’re never quite sure if they’re a bunch of hardened criminals looking to build a profitable drug empire or just a club of men who get their kicks from kidnapping and killing people gruesomely. After all, they couldn’t even be bothered to come up with an actual name for their drug, so that the ‘kingpin’ at one point of exclaims something to the effect of, “He (Vijay Antony) has had 4gms of drug? Impressive!”
Predictably, Vijay Antony goes from being the average techie next door experiencing strange occurrences to a superman of sorts who defeats all the baddies single-handedly. If that gang of baddies had exhibited any sort of impulse towards actual criminal efficiency instead of just sitting around and making cheesy bad guy expressions and mouthing cringe-worthy dialogues, it might have been a bit more impressive.
There are a couple of actors beside Vijay Antony who get a decent amount of screen time, and Charuhasan and Y Gee Mahendra, at least seem to know what to do in front of the camera. For the rest, though, the film is all about the hero, and sadly Vijay Antony just doesn’t have the acting chops to carry a full film focused so closely on him. And I do mean that literally, since director Pradeep’s favourite tactic for building intensity into a scene is focusing the camera in extreme close-ups in every third frame or so.
Vijay Antony does a better job on the music than he does in front of the camera, though the music, like everything in the film, is too heavy-handed to really be engaging.
At the end of the day, “Saithan” doesn’t have what it takes to make a tight, engaging thriller. And so, you have audience members like the gentleman sitting behind me, who are as likely as not to fall asleep and snore gently through a fair bit of the film.