A Brief Note on Visaaranai (Tamil; 2016)

I just saw Visaaranai, and I don’t think I can write a review of the film.  Or rather, there’s something obscene about (merely) reviewing this terrifying representation of four migrant laborers caught in a criminal justice system so pitiless, so oppressive, “corruption” is a banal term for it, banal and lying in its suggestion of hope that the norm might be something else; obscene, because Visaaranai does not so much indict “the system” as it does everyone who allows himself to consume uncritically a news report or a police story of gangs busted, terrorists nabbed, or policemen feted.  The most charitable thing one can say is that a great chasm of unknowing separates us, should separate us, from trust in such news stories: Visaaranai demonstrates, with almost mathematical precision, that any other response is unethical.  There are plenty of other reasons to watch this film: as a naturalistic representation of a politicized police force, it is unequalled by anything I have seen; the acting is uniformly good (perhaps none more so than Samuthirakani as Inspector Muthuvel); and the direction by Vetri Maaran superb, but these are not essential: the implicit proof that it offers of our own degraded complicity in the charade, is. I haven’t seen a better film in years, and I haven’t ever seen a more necessary one.

A huge thanks to Chandrakumar for writing this, and for affording us the privilege of hearing his voice at film’s end, and really to everyone associated with this film (including Dhanush, who gets a producer credit) for making this film possible.  Thanks also to Netflix for making this film available in the US (I can only hope it’s available at Netflix India as well).

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6 Responses to “A Brief Note on Visaaranai (Tamil; 2016)”

  1. Don’t think your first paragraph on the film can be bettered, at least at a concise level. It is one of the most singular films I have ever seen. Thanks for this valuable note..

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  2. As I said in other thread this is a disturbing movie. Unfortunately what it shows, is the “normal” of the system . Even if the characters were guilty (of original charge), I hope nobody has to go through such ordeal.

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  3. I am really interested in this: But I am am just not in the frame of mind to witness such emotional violence.

    **I just saw Visaaranai, and I don’t think I can write a review of the film. Or rather, there’s something obscene about (merely) reviewing this terrifying representation of four migrant laborers caught in a criminal justice system so pitiless, so oppressive, “corruption” is a banal term for it, banal and lying in its suggestion of hope that the norm might be something else; obscene, because Visaaranai does not so much indict “the system” as it does everyone who allows himself to consume uncritically a news report or a police story of gangs busted, terrorists nabbed, or policemen feted**

    Finely put. The exact emotions I went through while and after watching FANDRY. For me, it was almost obscene that I was trying to write a review. But I had to say something..

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  4. Having said that, I watched SILENCE last night by Marty.What a ‘personal’, astounding, and ‘minimalist’ movie. If one were to compare TWOWS with this, it hits your face with the schizophrenic tendencies of Marty as devoted to the subject as well as his directorial capabilities,

    If everything is well, I might write on it. But suffice it to say that this is one of the most intriguing films of Marty.

    A very, very subjective movie. Eminently watchable in a very personal sense. Andrew Garfield, God bless him, was never in my favorite actors’ list, but by God, whether the one on screen or otherwise, a performance to remember for ages…

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  5. Qalandar,
    I adored this film especially its piercing formal aspects so don’t mean this a point of dissent but I’m curious when you say this:

    “Visaaranai does not so much indict “the system” as it does everyone who allows himself to consume uncritically a news report or a police story of gangs busted, terrorists nabbed, or policemen feted.”

    I thought the film places its audience in a neutral category, so to say. That is to say, its objective, it seems to me, is to present to its audience a very unsettling, visceral portrait of the true nature of the system we rely on. But I didn’t think it particularly problematizes the ideological axis (axes) through which we as audiences already digest these processes of the system’s functioning and indeed the truth (that’s revealed here) itself in some ways.

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    • And to clarify my point a bit further, I completely agree with you on “there’s something obscene about (merely) reviewing this terrifying representation.” And it is to the film’s credit that it brings out the relentlessness of it all that it appears a bit ridiculous to indulge in an exercise of appreciation. But I’m not sure if the film implicates us in any *particular* way or provoke a *particular* response other than a general sense of helpless empathy we feel for the characters.

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