Sigai Review: A whodunit that over-emphasises its message
An uneven blend of two contrasting stories
After a run in the festival circuits, the long-delayed Sigai became the second Tamil film to get a release in an OTT platform (Zee5). I wonder if the message that the film preaches was the reason for it not getting a theatrical release. If so, it would be rather disheartening. Sigai has everything you'd expect in a template thriller -- a plot that happens in one day, a missing person, a couple of mysterious deaths and a man who goes looking for an answer. But director Jagadeesan Subu seems to have not wanted Sigai to get brushed off as yet another whodunit. Which probably explains why his screenplay shifts course post intermission and goes on to become a completely different story.
Director: Jagadeesan Subu
Cast: Kathir, Raj Bharath, Meera Nair, Riythvika, Mayilsamy
The first half tracks the trials and tribulations of Prasad (Raj Bharath), a pimp who feels guilty for the disappearance of the in-demand prostitute Nimmi (Meera Nair) and more than the actors, it's the director who shines in this portion. He keeps stressing on how a pimp is perceived in our society and the way Prasad cringes internally when others talk to him not knowing his profession hits you. In one scene, a character even tells him that it would be better to make a living out of begging instead.
Jagadeesan also shows us glimpses of the lives of prostitutes. He spares us the visual horrors, but does give us a bit of the aftermath. In one scene, one of Prasad's 'rani's, Bhuvana (Riythvika) returns with a bruised lip. In another, when Prasad and a senior pimp, Cheta (Rajesh Sharma) are busy searching for Nimmi, the latter gets a disturbing call from a elder customer thrashing him for sending a girl who can't even take the pain of a stubbed cigarette.
The director takes his time to establish the main characters. Prasad is shown as a softer guy compared to others in his business. Bhuvana, who despite being ready to do extra work to make money, has a liking for Prasad. Nimmi isn't a regular promiscuous prostitute but someone whose family doesn't know her profession and has saved a pimp's contact on her phone as an aunty. Jagadeesan also does justice to minor characters such as the woman who takes revenge on her cheating husband, a cab-driver who gets caught in this issue and many more. These moments make up for the leisurely pace of the screenplay.
We know that we're in for a major twist when another primary character is introduced post intermission. The film shifts gears the minute Mathivanan (Kathir) walks in. Fresh from the success of Pariyerum Perumal, Kathir pulls off the trans woman character really well. The change he shows with his mannerisms when he's alone when compared to how he is with others is phenomenal. But the fact that he's made to be a voice for the trans community feels extremely preachy, especially when he goes on about the pains of being a transgender person with a lengthy monologue -- to a dead body.
The director, who shines a light on the plight of sex workers, and particularly their safety, even gives a sort of a solution in the end where a pimp asks his customer for government ID. But the shift midway is rather unconvincing, and makes us wish the film was just about a pimp searching for his employee.