Nerkonda Paarvai cast: Ajith, Shraddha Srinath, Abhirami Venkatachalam, Andrea Tariang
Nerkonda Paarvai director: H Vinoth
Nerkonda Paarvai rating: 3 stars
In Nerkonda Paarvai, Ajith Kumar’s character Barath Subramanian gets a very simple introduction. The simplest of ‘Ajith introduction scenes’ that we have seen in recent times. A girl jogging in the park is creeped out by Barath’s fixed gaze on her. She is not sure how to handle the situation. The gardener on the spot realises the girl’s predicament and comes to her rescue by asking Barath to leave the place.
The girl in question is Meera Krishnan (Shraddha Srinath). And to her horror, she finds out that Barath is her neighbour and he is standing out on his balcony and staring at her house. His look is still devoid of expression and motive. Barath is not the only one in the neighbourhood watching Meera and her two friends Famila (Abhirami Venkatachalam) and Andrea (Andrea Tariang). Most of the men in the neighbourhood are curious to know what three independent girls, living away from their families, will do behind closed doors. When their voyeuristic gaze is incapable of cutting through the walls of privacy, they presume things and form a misjudged perception.
Later you realize, Barath is, probably, the only man in the crowd who is straightforward in the way he looks at the girls. His gaze is direct, unsentimental, unbiased and just.
Nerkonda Paarvai is the remake of Bollywood film Pink that tackles the subject of consent. The original film had Amitabh Bachchan as an aged lawyer, who was burdened by emotional issues of his past. But the film did not examine as to why he quit practising as a lawyer? We know something bad has happened to him and his loved ones but were not told what exactly the problem was. The film just centred around the fight for honour and justice for three women.
In the Tamil remake, director H Vinoth has explicitly added a backstory to Ajith’s Barath to make it easier for the audience to connect with the narration. Barath suffers depression due to the guilt of letting down his wife (Vidya Balan). Vinoth has been very liberal in spoon-feeding information to the audience. Given the sensitive nature of the subject, it’s understandable as to why Vinoth found it imperative to spell it out for the audience.
The director has also been mindful of Ajith’s core fan base and he has thrown in an action piece that pretty much covers all the bases of a mass hero fight: Ajith takes few beatings before he starts hitting. Check. Ajith rides a motorcycle and pops up a wheelie. Check. Ajith sends all bad guys flying in the air. Check. Ajith drives a four-wheeler. Check. Ajith ends the scene with the villain cowering in fear. Double-check.
The action scene also helps H Vinoth to draw attention to the actual story that is about to follow. However, I could overhear fans complaining that there were no peppy song numbers in the film that they could dance to in the theater.
Ajith shines in his performance in the courtroom scenes, especially with his deadpan humour. His performance seems to stem from his clear understanding of the material in hand. Shraddha, Abhirami and Andrea take turns in showing their acting chops.
It is anybody’s guess why the filmmakers decided to cast popular TV journalist Rangaraj Pandey as the lawyer defending the accused. In the light of #MeToo movement, he made headlines for grilling singer Chinmayi after she made allegations against lyricist Vairamuthu. But he drew flak for not questioning the person accused of misconduct.
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In Nerkonda Paarvai, Pandey’s character stands in for men who use the feudal ways of publically humiliating women to force them into silence.
Nerkonda Paarvai is a timely film that could significantly contribute to sensitising people to the plight of the victims of sexual violence. When a big star like Ajith says “No means No”, the impact of the punchline on the audience could be immediate and stronger than what Amitabh Bachchan achieved when he said it the first time.