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The Curious Case of 18/9



In the film world or in any writing industry, anything that needs to be conveyed starts off with an idea. This idea creates a spark which makes it to grow into a full-fledged story. When this story captures the imagination of the people involved, the plot and the characters that are driving them are subsequently developed and enhanced to magnify the impact that the one liner had on the creator.  Coming out after watching Vazaku En:18/9, I realized how miserably the movie has failed to rise above the synopsis  that it started out with.

With a plot line similar to that of the movie ‘Ram’, VE18/9 opens up as a crime thriller with a boy being the prime accused. As he gets prodded by the interrogating officer about his life, the boy begins to recount his trials and tribulations up till the day he is brought for interrogation. Like any scared boy would tremble before a police officer and plead for innocence, the protagonist keeps reminding the audience through the voice over about the hardship & injustice he had to face at various walk of his life. When something is reiterated countless time, it is human tendency to question the very nature of its existence. This intention grows manifold when the plot is that of a crime thriller and the story is being told to a police officer.  But with a gem of a character at display, when Balaji Shakthivel chooses to paint layer after layer of purity, the treatment becomes enduring and uncalled for to say the least. Sure there could be reasons for emphasizing the innocence of the boy so as to mentally prepare the audience for the events that would happen at the end. But the sole purpose of a crime thriller is lost when you are moving away from the genre and start campaigning for the boy from the very first frame. Apart from these layers that keep painting the protagonist as whiter than white amongst the black background he dwells in, the body held camera used in the close up scenes and the background score, that could easily topple the bgms of tamil serial as the most drab bgm in recent time, successfully attenuate the desired effect that was intended.

VE18/9 isn’t just about one story. As I got relieved when the boy was dismissed after the hearing, a girl comes to the officer offering another story about the same case. It is the story of a girl whose adolescent whims and aspirations gets her trapped under the charm of a guileful boy. Unlike in the previous story, the girl doesn’t narrate the happenings to a great extent. When the boy offers her to come over for a chat in coffee shop, Balaji Shakthivel doesn’t use voice over to convey the girl’s thoughts; he doesn’t use her facial expressions as well. Instead he lets the girl rub her finger over the handle bar of her cycle to tell her hesitation and when she presses the handle one last time with pressure and removes her hand, we understand she has decided to give him a try. Such deftness throughout a film, displayed for a fleeting minute by Balaji here, has what made great filmmakers to be what they are now. Though Balaji doesn’t out do his best cinematic scene there on in the girl’s story, the subtlety and control he shows with the way the girl handles the betrayal, how she approaches her mother and the much needed positivity she brings to the screen is something to be proud of. With such understanding & skill in playwriting it puzzles me why Balaji resorts to imbecile level of writing in most of the 1st half and with the way he portrayed the rich boy’s family.

Apart from all the negativities which kept deriding the film, when I came out after watching VE18/9 the one thing that haunted me was the content in itself. Like the powerful look of the poor girl which made the attendant let her stay on to be with her lover even after other inmates were forced to leave, a strong intent is a resilient force which will easily outwit all the mockers and reach for the softest spot in the heart. 

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