Movie Reviews

Solo Is Ample Evidence Of Nambiar’s Mastery Over The Noire Genre


Movie Review: Outwardly sunny bright cheerful and brimming with  joie de vivre, Bejoy Nambiar’s  startling  omnibus opens on  a deceptively positive  note as a college romance burgeons between a stammering student leader and  a sexy blind dancer. The  zest and grace with which Nambiar projects  the  growing love between   two youngsters with a “manufacturing defect” each,lulls us into a false sense of  wellbeing.

Solo (in Tamil & Malayalam)

Starring Dulquer Salmaan

Directed  by Bejoy Nambiar

Rating: ****(4 Stars)

No,forget it, all is not well with the  universe.Each  one  of the  four stories that form the essence of Nambiar’s compelling treatise  on  life love and related deceptions, secretes  a dark despair-filled underbelly. Nambiar takes little time to  get to the unlit core of  the human heart. Like his characters, Nambiar too is at the risk of running out of time.In 2 ½ hours he must unravel the mysteries of  the human heart as they tie themselves in tangles of  anguishedimploration to anyone who would answer the call of the heart.

Indeed  Solo with its supremely impassioned plea to fob off isolation is a shout-out for comfort and warmth in  a world gone completely cold. In the frigid frozen environment of  isolated  hearts and broken  promises,  a light is lit.

Nambiar’s characters  find  love and then lose it in the most bizarre ways. In the first and my favourite story Shekharwith the speech impairment  loves and marries the seductive dancer Radhika(the very fetching Sai Dhansika) who can see  better than those with vision.  Their ravishing romance, more Mani Ratnam than Karan Johar, reaches an awful dilemma then slides into a tragedy with such resonance that I was rendered teary eyed and speechless in no time at all.

Nambiar gives us no room to grieve for  lost love. The next story which is  cleverly and stylishly noire-ish(Kashyapand Ramu on  one of their more inspired outings)  has chameleon-like Dulquer transforming into  a vendetta-seeking widower. I  found this story way too devious and self-congratulatory  to be spontaneous. The storytelling  here lacks the grace  of the first story. Bejoy is  way too eager to push all the right de Palma-Hitchcock  buttons. The morality tale  is just about gripping though never gloriously memorable.

The  third story , a dark  violent saga of  persecution and  retribution again soars to tremendous heights of  lucidity. Here Dulquer,playing the gun-toting killer from a  broken violent home, uses his silences to express screaming disdain for  social codes.  Among the  four stories this one  has the optimum velocity and an ability to be an independent full-length feature film on  its own.

The gangsters (these include the very wonderful Dinesh Prabhakar , seen in the week’s other release Chef) are  constantly fighting over MGR-Sivaji Ganesan songs . The  brutal hits are staged in grotesquely ironical circumstances , for instance a Tamil melodrama plays on  television while  the man of the house is being roughed up outside. Or a businessman who is  vital to the plot  is attacked while he performs Ganpati  puja in Mumbai.

This  story is partly set in Mumbai and conveys a lot of the city’s gangster-patois with  a relish that Nambiar had displayed in  his stunning debut film Shaitaan.  There are images and  shots in this story that I’d rate as  among the best in the gangster genre in Indian cinema.Like the  first two stories this one too has an unexpected twist in the tale that leaves  one of the protagonists bereaved and alone….solo!

Interestingly there is an infant child in all the three stories so  far, while Dulquer  plays the child-man  in the  fourth and least satisfying story  about a volatile  armyman and his  forbidden love for  his neighbour’s daughter(Neha Sharma). The incestuous undertones in this story left me somewhat underwhelmed though not in  any permenantly  damaging way.

Solo is ample proof of Bejoy Nambiar’s mastery over the desi noire genre which so far Anurag Kashyap thought  he owned.  It is also a lucid testimony to Dulquer Salmaan’s virtuosity, He has rapidly emerged as  one  of  India’s most  exciting contemporary actors. There are  other performances  in the film that heighten the feeling of exacerbated intrigue underlined  by that feeling of dread which remains  just under the film’s simmering surface.

No review of this remarkable  film can  be  complete without mentioning the cinematography which propels the innermost hankerings of  the characters  into tangible images, and   the redoubtable Sreekar Prasad’s editing which  brings all the four stories into one moral and emotional  line  of  vision without forfeiting the individual flavour and mood of  each story.

Solo is  a work of such acute and sometimes simply cute, mastery that we tend to moved back in awe to admire its physical  and emotional construct, only  to be pulled  right back into the profound conflicts of Nambiar’s protagonists who are strong enough to face the winds of adversity but not unbreakable when  lashed by life’s disappointments.

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