Echarikkai... Review: Dense material that doesn’t come together as well as it deserves
There’s the plot, and all that subtext underneath, but it all doesn’t condense into riveting material — not for the thriller it wants to be anyway.
As the end credits of Echarikkai Idhu Manidhargal Nadamadum Idam roll, three films are credited as having inspired this debut of director Sarjun (known for his viral short films, Maa and Lakshmi): The Disappearance of Alice Creed, an Italian drama called La Orca, and finally, Mani Ratnam’s Kadal. The first film, more or less, gives Echarikkai… its plot. La Orca’s exploitation angle is briefly alluded to, especially when one of the two kidnappers, Thomas (a sprightly Vivek Rajagopal) gazes with longing at the abductee, Swetha (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar). The Christian flavouring of the film, I imagine, is from Kadal. Characters like Thomas, David (Kishore, intense as always) and Frank (Yogi Babu) populate this universe, with the latter liberal with his usage of ‘child’. Much like in Kadal, a central character named Thomas is being sought by an evidently good and an evidently bad character. More similarities come by when towards the end, Echarikkai… also shows that there’s good in bad and vice-versa. The film’s rather misanthropic title, however, indicates pessimistic focus.
There’s all sorts of bad in Echarikkai’s characters. There’s the straightforward illegal variety: murder, kidnapping, embezzlement… And then, there’s the bad of the soul: betrayal, temptation, selfishness… I know what you’re thinking. It all seems rather dense, doesn’t it? It is, and it is in attempting to package it all enterprisingly that Echarikkai… stumbles. There’s the plot, and all that subtext underneath, but it all doesn’t condense into riveting material — not for the thriller it wants to be anyway. There’s a particularly clever moment when retired DIG, Nataraj (Sathyaraj), figures out the number of criminals involved, but this film needed a whole lot of these.
Perhaps if Echarikkai had been conceived as, say, a drama, Sarjun may have been allowed the breathing time necessary to satisfactorily explore the psyche of the damaged characters that populate its universe. As it exists though, the genre doesn’t allow for too many pauses in order to establish the three main relationships of this film: between Natraj and his daughter, between David and Thomas, and a romantic relationship I can’t quite talk about without spoiling a mini-twist. The film, in fact, sets itself up by focussing on David and Thomas, but just as you hope to learn more about the changed dynamics of their relationship, the story kicks into thriller mode and hurtles on. With the other two relationships, you are barely scratching the surface. I’d have liked to learn, in particular, about the romance at the heart of the film — the how and the why of it — but a superficial montage song barely does justice to this important bond.
In perhaps the first time in a while, Yogi Babu seems a totally dispensable addition to this film. He has precious little to do and is a poor fit with his brand of humour. Sarjun also tries to sneak in some crowd-pleasing moments here and there — like Sathyaraj uttering a variation of his famous ‘character-a purinjika maatengaringa’ line. In an unintendedly funny bit, David, trying to be menacing, sends a lock of the victim’s hair along with a letter that says, “Indha vaati mai**, next time uyiru.” These feel like forced, halfhearted moments in a film that should have been grittier. And if it had been, perhaps the fate of the Thomas-David relationship would have been far more affecting. In its present state, all the central characters get their respective comeuppance, while you’re wondering about what could have been.