Swapna (a terrific Taapsee Pannu), a video-game designer, suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a sexual assault. We are not shown the exact details, but Swapna is quite afraid of the dark. She sleeps with lights on. She gets panic attacks and attends therapy sessions. Swapna is a survivor and experiences ‘anniversary reaction’ (this-tends-to-happen-every-year-around-this-time feeling). To be more specific, it is considered the re-experience of a traumatic event that triggers grief, anxiety, loss and pain.
Swapna works from home. She doesn’t live with her parents. She has Kala (Vinodhini) to help her out with household chores. Swapna doesn’t treat her as a housemaid but trusts her completely.
A few minutes into Game Over, we are shown a woman getting murdered à la Hitchcock. Her head is chopped. Her body is burnt. There is blood and gore. But that’s not Swapna. I like the universe that the film is set in. Ashwin Saravanan takes the audience straight into Swapna’s world. You get to know her likes, dislikes and lifestyle, but you never judge her for her ‘flaws’. “What if life is a video game and déjà vu are just checkpoints?” and “Real life makes me want to kill people in video games!” You see those words on posters stuck to her living room. Swapna has a tattoo of a joystick on her wrist.
You don’t often see a woman video-gamer. That too in a no-nonsense character playing Pac-Man. You don’t often see a protagonist attending therapy sessions. Again, you don’t often see a supporting character, a cancer survivor. I like how Ashwin Saravanan made me root for his powerfully-written female characters. You get interesting lines —‘fight like a girl’, ‘Seththaalum paravaala; sanda podarom’ and so on. That’s why it’s important to have a woman writer on board. (Credit equally goes to co-writer Kaavya Ramkumar). The makers portray Swapna with utmost empathy and sensitivity that I even welled up a little. I like the way the film ended. Ashwin gives Swapna closure and hope.
There is also another story of Amudha (Sanchana Natarajan) and her mom Dr Reena (T Parvathi) helping Swapna overcome her fear. Undoubtedly, Vinodhini, Sanchana and T Parvathi are the additional lifelines to this film.
Game Over could have been crispier and avoided the whole ‘tattoo angle’. But overall, it works well, along with contribution by music composer Ron Ethan Yohann and Director of Photography A Vasanth.
We need more films like Game Over that have a realistic portrayal of protagonists who have mental health issues. We need more directors like Ashwin Saravanan who show people with depression and anxiety are “socially-acceptable and normal”. What is interesting is Game Over has many well-defined women characters—the tattoo artist, housemaid, et cetera, who outnumbered men. We get to see only four male characters in the film. Three masked men and a psychoanalyst (played by Anish Kuruvilla).
Game Over treads unfamiliar terrains and is Ashwin Saravanan’s second film after Nayanthara’s Maya. It’s interesting how he chose to cast Taapsee Pannu in a pan-Indian project. Most of the events happen inside a house and Ashwin manages to hold the audience’s interest throughout, without losing grip on the narration. Taapsee contributes equally by carrying off the role admirably well.
Game Over lives up to its tagline, ‘You’ve seen nothing like this’.