Zhagaram Review: This treasure chest is empty
A highly underwhelming blend of guerrilla filming and royalty-free footage.
Tamil films, these days, are promoted in interesting ways. But sometimes, the very USP used to promote films ends up backfiring. Debutant Krish’s Zhagaram comes with the tag of being ‘a feature film made with a budget of a short film’. Having seen and reviewed several of these small films that are invariably terrible, I was cautious. But the fact that it’s a treasure-hunt adventure and not a single-room drama is what got me curious and won over the sceptic in me. The film begins with an impressive VFX sequence, aided by the intriguing background score by Dharan, but everything goes downhill after that. What follows is a highly underwhelming blend of guerrilla filming and royalty-free footage.
Cast: Nandha Durairaj, Eden Kuriakosse, Vishnu Bharath
In a particular sequence, Akhil (Nandha) and his friends decide to steal a rudraksha from the Borra Caves in order to crack a puzzle. You’d think they would come up with a foolproof plan to trick the guards and escape clean-handed. But no such luck. All they do is look around cluelessly and leave the place saying they’ll return with a better plan, and the scene cuts to a shot of Surya (Vishnu Bharath) casually coming out of a washroom, pulling out the rudraksha from his pocket and announcing that he has already stolen it. Similarly, whenever the story moves towards a scene which demands even the slightest hint of a decent budget, a character says, “Inga vechi venam...” and the camera cuts to a hotel room.
Lack of funds isn’t the only, or even biggest, problem of the film; the clumsiness in the storyline and the making prove to be far deadlier issues. In a serious scene, the friends hand over a pair of dice to an archaeologist seeking ‘expert advice’ from her. This advice takes the form of her saying, “Idhu oru dice, idha vechi business game viladalam.” The characters all live in an alternate reality where they find solutions to all problems under the sky by just googling. Towards the second half, Zhagaram turns into an alternate history lesson we didn’t sign up for. It starts to bombard us with fictions and facts, trying our patience severely in the process. These guys’ search for the treasure seems to go on forever and they travel to more cities than all of director Hari’s heroes put together — only we never get to actually see these cities because of the aforementioned lack of funds.
The makers themselves seem to have lost faith in their project sometime during the making. I say this because there are several fourth-wall breaking scenes where one character keeps saying, “10 lakhs la ivlo dhaan panna mudinjadhu.” Zhagaram also starts with a unique disclaimer which makes several claims about how it is free of the usual cliches, such as a hero who sends villains flying with a single punch. But it also has a producer character who insists that a film should have these formulaic sequences. It’s high time filmmakers realise that a fresh story, strong performance and flawless making are the only ingredients we seek in a film, for real.