FIR Movie Review: A punchy thriller that gets watered down by convenient writing
FIR is like an exam sheet of a bright student, who spent all his energy giving detailed answers for the essays but went with random options for MCQs in a rush to finish the exam
There's a lot to like about Vishnu Vishal's FIR. It is one more effective film that reminds us that the system is always greater than the people it serves and we aren't safe even if we have a gold medal from IIT or a family member in the police force. And the odds are always stacked against us if we are from the minority. The Muslim community, which has either been overlooked or suffocated with an overdose of cliches in Tamil cinema gets a breather in FIR.
Cast: Vishnu Vishal, Raiza Wilson, Manjima Mohan, Reba Monica John, Praveen Kumar, Ram C
Director: Manu Anand
Excluding one highly controvertible Islam preacher's character, the film gets its representation right. For starters, the protagonist Irfan Ahmed lives in Triplicane, the religious hub for both Muslims and Hindus in Chennai. He is a religious Muslim, who prays five times a day and is a teetotaler, but takes his leeway when it comes to smoking. Blemishes like this humanise Irfan, and I also loved the effort that has gone into the character sketch of the two major supporting characters, Prarthana Raman and Anisha Qureshi. Looking macroscopically, having a brahmin and Muslim girl on opposing ends might feel like tokenism, but Prarthana and Anisha aren't caricatures. Raiza Wilson's Anisha will be remembered as the first hijab-clad action hero of Tamil cinema.
Debutant Manu Anand sets the bar so high with a lot of interesting elements like these that when inconveniences come in the form of forced comedy and loopholes it almost feels criminal. I would hate to analyse a film based on the pre and post-intermission halves, but in FIR, the difference is so jarring that you can't help yourself from missing the highly tactful writing of the first half in the latter. If you have seen the release promos of FIR, it is no surprise that it is the tale of a chemical engineer who gets framed for terrorism. The tension Manu Anand sets till the point Irfan gets arrested is so tastefully made that it keeps you on the edge of the seat.
However, the shockingly convenient writing that follows takes a toll on our investment till then. Which secret agent on a mission goes by their original name? Which police van transporting the country's most wanted criminal goes unescorted? Which good guy, who stands for what's right, ends up aiding a major catastrophe? Of course, there are the proverbial twists that bank heavily on 'the one, big climactic reveal'. But, the reveal, which should have been bang on target, misses it by quite a distance, and the clutters in the pre-climax is plain predictable. FIR in a way gave me a feeling of an exam sheet of a bright student, who spent all his energy and time in giving the most exquisite and detailed answers for the essays but went with random options for the MCQs in a rush to finish the exam.
These inconsistencies in the screenplay, however, don't hinder the performances of the lead actors. Vishnu Vishal, who was highly pumped up for FIR, had called it his career-best performance during the promotions. Well, he turns out to be right as he brilliantly fits the part and conveniently ticks the check box of an action hero. Raiza impresses in a highly unconventional role. With two stunning performances in both of her major releases so far, it’s going to be interesting to see where she goes from here.
Nevertheless, FIR is an important film because it doesn't question or explain why Anisha wears a hijab to work. It is an important film because it doesn't question or explain why an Irfan falls in love with an Archana Krishnamoorthy or befriends a Prarthana Raman.
Most of us would have had this question on our mind for long: "Where are our Muslim protagonists?" The void for Muslim leads is finally being filled by Khaliqs and Irfans now. But it is undoubtedly scarring to realise that we as a society are still making them scream, "We are not terrorists!" Hopefully, one fine day we will get to see our Wizams and Mohammads dancing to intro songs, cracking jokes and taking on evil kingpins, just like our Karthiks and Shivas.