Rating: *** ½
The writing in Por Thozhil, a serialkiller police procedural with balls brains and brio , is so focused and original, it feels like a first(which it is , considering this is Applause Entertainment’s first foray in Tamil Cinema) although we have seen so many films in this chilling genre, right from the time when Hannibal Lectar inspired Raman Raghav , and Anurag Kashyap made a career out of bloodthirsty sagas soaked in blood and marionated in mayhem.
Por Thozhil is neither over-violent nor does it trip over its own smartness. The two principal actors play against one another with restraint .And the background score doesn’t burn up the non-visual space.
There is something solidly engaging about Por Thozhil’s fabulous deconstruction of the formulaic cinema. Consider the core cast.Sarath Kumar and Ashok Selvan make perfect fits as the cantankerous unfriendly cynical senior cop Lokanathan (about whom a doctor says , “I’d rather graze cows than treat such people”) and a shaky rookie Prakash who learns the ropes from the senior who initially refuses pointblank to mentor the novice.
Also along for the bumpy but riveting ride from Chennai to Trichy is another charming junior cop Veena( Nikhila Vimla). I am not too sure what her function is in the police procedural except to drop a hint of a romance with Prakash. Luckily,there are no romantic diversions , no love songs… The taut plot sticks to the point on hand.
And we are never shortchanged by the screenplay.The pace seldom slackens except for the occasional banter between characters who need to loosen up during the relentless pursuit of the killer on the prowl.
The film opens with two cops driving down a dark road with one grumbling to the other that he doesn’t get time to have sex with his new wife because of his night duty.The exchange has little relevance to the cat-and-mouse chase that follows, except to remind us that cops lead a completely unplanned life.
The proceedings never give up on being engaging.We are tirelessly tangled in the web of murder, and when the killer is revealed midway , the writing goes off in pursuit of an unforeseen twist that takes us dragging and kicking to the end.
What I found disturbing the killers’ backstory. They seem to be constructed to provide a justification for their brutality. There is a conversation on this tendency to humanize psychopathic behaviour between Lokanathan and Prakash which ends with the best line in the film: “Not all troubled children grow up to be killers. Some of them become cops.”
To this we may add, not all serial-killer films engage the audience till the end. But this one most certainly does.