Beginning Movie Review: Impeccable performances, technical brilliance let down by uninspiring writing
Beginning would have been an extremely inferior film in the hands of amateur leads. But Vinoth and Gauri deliver take care of the heavy lifting
Remember Mercury, the 'silent film' of Karthik Subbaraj? Despite not having dialogues, most of us felt deceived by the thriller as the director took the easier way out by making all his protagonists mute and deaf. Fast-forward a few years, we now have Beginning, billed as 'Asia's first split-screen film.' Witnessing two parallel stories happening almost in real time sounds exciting. But, unfortunately, debutant filmmaker Jagan Vijaya, very much like Karthik Subbaraj, settles for a generic idea to fit his story into this unique format. He conveniently introduces a phone call to connect his left and right screen protagonists and this call, which begins in the initial portions of the film, lasts on and off till the very end.
Cast: Vinoth Kishan, Gauri Kishan, Rohini, Sachinn
Director: Jagan Vijaya
The phone call came as a major source of dejection as Beginning gets a very promising opening sequence. As we stare at the dark screen in the theatres, we hear Nithya (Gauri Kishan) being abducted by a gang of men on the right side. Even before the frame opens we know her tale would unfold on the right screen courtesy of the brilliant sound department. My admiration for the film grew stronger when the visuals of the intellectually-challenged Bala Subramani (Vinoth Kishan) and his mother (on the left half of the screen) came into play. It is quite admirable that the film is packaged in such a way that concentrating on one screen wouldn't dilute the details on the other. For instance, when the kidnappers talk among themselves on the Nithya side, we have Bala Subramani doing his morning regime on his side. All the innovation that has gone into building these initial sequences of the film steadily fizzles out when the phone is thrown in as a tool to bridge the protagonists' realities. Had the makers chosen to delay the convergence of their stories and focussed more on the separate tracks, we would have been in for an unforgettable visual experience. But the phone call trope ends up making us feel like a disgruntled spectator in an overlong video conference.
Though cinematographer Veerakumar and editor CS Premkumar do outstanding work, they are clearly let down by the uninspiring writing. With the film having a thin plotline, the heavy lifting had to be done by the character building and gripping screenplay. But nothing significant happens in the story for long stretches and most of the characters are one-dimensional. The excessive cinematic liberties in the screenplay, aimed at building tension only make the audience distant from the film. Logic also goes for a terrible toss in multiple instances. For starters, we don't understand why Nithya doesn't attempt to lock the door from the inside to save herself from the predators, or why she is hell-bent on getting help from the naive Bala Subramani without dialling alternate numbers.
Beginning would have been an extremely inferior film in the hands of amateur leads. But Vinoth Kishan shows once again that he is one the strongest performers in the industry. It is hard to think of alternate names to pull off this character. Despite playing a character who has animated body language, repeats sentences habitually, and is extremely emotional, Vinoth maintains a perfect balance in his portrayal without resorting to hamming. Gauri as the helpless, yet strong-willed Nithya shines in the portions post her abuse, and the scene where she narrates her ordeal to Bala is an example of the seasoned performer she is turning out to be.
Despite the flaws in the writing, I will remember director Jagan Vijaya as a creator who has his heart in the right place and dares to defy the ordinary. His debut is indeed a notable beginning, and it is going to be interesting to see where he goes from here.