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Selvaraghavan’s ‘Naane Varuvean’ is a thriller that shows why Dhanush is an anomaly

In a period where filmmakers are busy decoding the box-office ‘hit’ formula and superstardom is synonymous with mega-budget projects with an ensemble cast, Dhanush is an anomaly. The fact that the audience is flocking to the theatres in Delhi for an early morning show of Naane Varuvean is testament to his pan-India appeal, which seems to be unperturbed by ever-changing box-office trends.

One can give the credit to ace director Selvaraghavan or the genre (psychological thriller) for luring the audience to cinema halls, but the situation was not very different 42 days ago, when Dhanush’s previous film, Thiruchitrambalam released. Not to say that he can do no wrong (looking at Maaran, also released earlier this year), but regardless of the minor turbulence or a 10-minute sequence in Russo Brothers’ The Gray Man, Dhanush’s stardom remains unruffled. All four performances are vastly different from each other. But Naane Varuvean is a compact genre film that delivers on most fronts, but not as much as it promises to be.

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A perfect cliffhanger

Written by Dhanush and directed by Selvaraghavan, the Tamil film marks the reunion of the two brothers after a period of 12 years. Interestingly, the actor-director has never had a miss whenever they collaborated (Pudhupettai, Kaadhal Kondaein, or Mayakkam Enna).

Kathir and Prabhu—Dhanush plays the double role of identical twins where the former is ‘evil’ and the latter is the quintessential ‘good’ boy. At one point, a priest tells Kathir and Prabhu’s mother, “One of them is destined to take another’s life.” The mother decides to abandon Kathir at a temple. Cut to many years later, we see that Prabhu is well settled with a stable job, wife and a daughter. “I feel jealous of you,” says a colleague to Prabhu, highlighting the ‘perfect’ life he has carved out for himself. Things take a spooky turn when Prabhu’s daughter Sathya finds an ‘imaginary friend’ named Sonu, only to be revealed later that she has been possessed. The first half of the film is smartly crafted with drama and suspense sprinkled in equal measure. The last scene right before the intermission when we are introduced to Kathir, again, is the perfect cliffhanger one can expect from a Selvaraghavan film.

The second half portrays Prabhu’s struggles with coming to terms with Sathya’s condition and the high stakes involved in curing her. If you have not seen the trailer, I would recommend that you don’t before watching the film. The less you know before, the better. I wonder if that was the reason the film was not heavily promoted.

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A Dhanush hit

Selvaraghavan has stitched a compelling story that pulls you by your collar and demands all your attention — at least until the intermission. Most of the indoor shots are shot in a grey colour scheme, intending to create an eerie atmosphere — at times, too much on the nose — but Yuvan Shankar Raja’s background music dilutes any irritants. But by the time, one reaches the climax, the story has dwindled too much for any redemption. It feels unreal to realise that the two parts of the film have been penned by the same person.

Dhanush is like a shape-shifter who, much like water, embodies any character he plays with utmost ease. Things are no different in Naane Varuvean. The vulnerability and poise of Prabhu never slip into the menacing and scary persona of Kathir.

Every time Dhanush enters a scene, coupled with Raja’s music (who is collaborating with the actor for the seventh time) the audience breaks into applause, with whistles and cheers echoing in the cinema hall. Isn’t that the experience one goes to the theatres for?

Views are personal.

Source: The Print

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