August 16, 1947 Movie Review: An exciting story butchered by over-the-top staging

August 16, 1947 Movie Review: An exciting story butchered by over-the-top staging

The earnest performances of Gautham Karthik and debutant Revathy are probably the only saving graces of the film
Rating:(2 / 5)

Creating entertainment out of the freedom struggle is tricky business. While films on this topic are usually biopics or tragedies, there are rare films that have managed to deliver all-round entertainment like RRR, and Madarasapattinam. At its core, August 16, 1947, falls in the latter category when it comes to ambitions. It is the story of a fictional village shielded away from news of India’s independence by its geography… and a wicked British General. This premise could have resulted in exciting ideas and an unforgettable film, but debutant NS Ponkumar won’t settle for a simple, sober film.

Cast: Gautham Karthik, Revathy, Pugazh, Richard Ashton, Jason Shah
Director: NS Ponkumar

He’s eager to make a dashing debut, and this means that the drama is amped up to its maximum limit, every chance he gts. Even after introducing Justin, one of the British antagonists, as a sexual predator, Ponkumar goes on to show him groping a minor, and worse, using an idol as a sex toy. Similarly, we get that Justin's father Robert is a blood-thirsty man within a few minutes into the film, but the director still feeds us with multiple, long sequences of him whipping, stomping, and killing people. The performances too are as exaggerated as the screenplay. Half an hour into the film, we are pretty much waiting to see the General to turn red in rage and for the villagers to run for their lives. It’s rather ironic that a village as reliant on physical communication should seem as clueless when a mute person conveys something elementary to them during a crucial sequence.

The biggest villain of August 16, 1947 isn't Justin or Robert; it is the film’s trailer that gave out all the little surprises and projected the film almost as a rather light-hearted, enjoyable take on freedom struggle. These stories, even if predictable, can be made compelling with effective writing that takes us into the world of the protagonist and places us in their shoes. But here, we hardly get familiar with the principal character Paraman (Gautham Karthik). For one, we don't even get a clear picture of his equation with the villagers. He dances with them but doesn't bat an eye when the men are killed, or the girls are raped. If he is the only 'veeran' of the village, who leads everyone to salvation, shouldn't we understand his psyche, dilemma, and moral conflict a little deeper? What we get are passing dialogues that leave very little impact.

 The people of the village wear something similar to a dog tag and are clothed in rugs and a random villager sports giant locks on his ears. I suppose these are interesting efforts by the costume department, but I’m not sure they add much to the narrative.

Though the film has a couple of 'ticking time bomb' situations, we don't really root for characters because of the detachment we feel with them and the logical loopholes. For instance, after saving Thaenmalli (Revathy) through a rather wise plan, evil Justin's room is used as a safeplace to hide her. The reason given? "Justin will search everywhere, apart from his own house." Well, unsurprisingly, the predator returns to his house to rest… and you know the rest.

Apart from the premise, earnest performances from Gautham Karthik and debutant Revathy are saving graces. Amid a group of caricatures, the work of these two actors stands out. Pugazh's performance might show evidence of effort, but the monotony of his act tested my patience. As, I suppose, much of the film did too.

Cinema Express