100 Movie Review: Atharvaa's cop debut packs a punch
Despite pacing issues and innumerable subplots, 100 is effectively wrapped up with minimal loose ends, and there's an overall sense of satisfaction at the end of 141 minutes
The portrayal of police in Tamil cinema will make for an interesting case study. Traditionally, the officers are shown to be inefficient or corrupt or inadequate, which in turn, justifies the existence of the archetypal masala hero. The only time police are shown as harbingers of justice and possessors of top-notch investigative acumen is when the hero plays a cop. Almost every actor dons the khaki to exact justice at some point in their career, and in Sam Anton's third directorial, 100, it is Atharvaa's turn to do so.
Director: Sam Anton
Cast: Atharvaa, Yogi Babu, Radha Ravi, Hansika Motwani
While the audience's affinity for police stories never seems to wane, it is still important for filmmakers to not dish out stale products. Sam mounts his film on the backdrop of a police control room, and this is, undoubtedly, the USP of the film. When 100 moves to this room and deals with that life-changing call answered by Atharvaa's Sathya, the film goes full steam ahead. However, this does not excuse the slack beginning.
Atharvaa wants to be a cop and his first bout of heroism comes in the form of thrashing a college kid (Raaj Aiyappa as Vicky), who misbehaved with the sister (YouTuber Harija as Ayesha) of his cop-friend, Anwar (Mahesh). But of course, Vicky and Ayesha are in love, and the former is the brother of Nisha (Hansika Motwani). An interesting segue for Sathya to meet Nisha. There is a meet-cute, a trivial misunderstanding, and just four minutes later we hear Atharvaa list out the reasons to fall in love with Hansika, which includes gems like she is a working woman who returns home before sunset. A Sam CS composition follows, Atharvaa follows Hansika, and almost inevitably, they fall in love.
All this is done and dusted in 20-25 minutes, and by this time, Sathya receives his appointment order. Then, Hansika disappears. I genuinely thought this would be Atharvaa's first case despite being introduced to the workings of a courier company, that is just a front for a drug-peddling unit led by Mime Gopi and Cheenu Mohan. And in between all this, there is the mysterious murder of a teenage girl, human trafficking, and juvenile convicts. As the movie progressed, it became clear that the 'Curious case of the missing Hansika' was only bothering me. Neither Atharvaa nor her own family was remotely concerned about her. While we may never know why Hansika's Nisha was written off in such an unapologetic manner, I won't deny it was a welcome move because there are only so many times you can watch someone struggle to lipsync a Tamil dialogue and fail miserably.
100 becomes a completely different film when Sathya receives that appointment order. It is only then that Atharvaa gets his opening song, where he sings about the kind of cop he will be, and out of nowhere, in the same song, there comes a takedown of the police excesses committed during the Sterlite protests. This kind of posturing continues throughout the film with callbacks to some much-publicised cases of violence against women. From Nirbhaya to the recent Pollachi case, a number of such incidents are referenced, but thankfully, the film talks about the legal loopholes and the importance of proper parenting. The usual 'keep your girls safe at home' or 'a real man protects women' shtick isn't touted. Extra points for that maturity in writing.
The initial exasperation of Atharvaa on being posted within the confines of the control room, the presence of fellow trainee M Jackson (a hilarious Yogi Babu), and Radha Ravi's dignified mentor role, is well-written by Sam. The scenes where Sathya warms up to this job and becomes a cop-vigilante bring up some interesting moments. Atharvaa packs quite a punch in the action sequences, which thankfully, aren't too long. Yes, henchmen are thrown around like bags of wool, but Atharvaa's physicality convinces you of his ability to actually do so. Though the actor also scores high on the humour front, he falters in the emotional scenes.
100 is one of those films that has a solid supporting cast who put up spirited performances. But the inconsistencies in pacing and innumerable subplots put us off at times. While it is okay to have enough double-crosses to put The Departed to shame, the cramping of all these details in the last act proves to be a dampener. It would have been gold if the final reveal of 100 gave you enough time to gasp, sidestep the red herrings, and gasp again as the hero vanquishes the villain. Here, it is more like a call trace here, a GPS tracker there, and boom... the villain reveal.
Still, 100 is effectively wrapped up with minimal loose ends, and there is an overall sense of satisfaction at the end of the 141 minutes. There are, however, two questions that continue to gnaw at me:
1. What would 100 have been with a more taut screenplay and fewer commercial compromises?
2. Where did Hansika go?