Naane Varuvean, Selvaraghavan and the monotony!

It’s high time the director came up with a strong storyline rather than presenting a regular narrative that posts a debate between good and evil.

BySanthosh Mathevan

Published Nov 05, 2022 | 1:49 PMUpdatedNov 05, 2022 | 1:49 PM

dhanush and selvaraghavan

It’s a well-known fact that filmmaker Selvaraghavan plays with coloured lighting. But, of late, this lighting pattern has become monotonous in his movies.

When he did that in Pudhupettai (2006), it felt like a never-before cinematic experience.

When a similar pattern was spotted in films like NGK (2019) and Nenjam Marappadhillai (2021), the audience started to interpret the usual — red is evil and green is hope. So Selva had to retrospect his patterning of lights and colours.

Cut to 2022. Selva comes up with this bizarre and trippy movie Naane Varuven, with Dhanush in the lead.

Here, nothing is experimental. Nothing is new. Again, his regular narrative poses a debate between good and evil. It’s simple as well.

Like any other Selva flick, Naane Varuvean is straightforward and doesn’t hide any symbols within, apart from the layers he knits in his stories.

Despite all of these repetitive elements, this isn’t a usual Selva movie.

He again plays with coloured lighting. However, this red light is introduced only when the evil — I mean, the literal evil — wants to come out to show its presence.

This is where Selva drops his conventions and picks up a new staging dynamic. The moment he transforms the lighting of the film, we’re taken into the world of Naane Varuvean to play a part along with the characters in the film.

In his previous movies, lights are used to set the mood. On the contrary, in this film, lights play a role. As evil is invisible, light gives a physique to it.

That’s one of the many aspects where Selva has evolved as a filmmaker. But, is that enough?

Cinema as a visual-storytelling art form

naane varuvean dhanush

Selvaraghavan’s ‘Naane Varuvean’ is streaming on Amazon Prime. (theVcreations/Twitter)

Naane Varuvean is going to be part of the long-running heated debate about cinema: whether the art form is a visual medium or a storytelling medium.

In Tamil cinema, filmmakers were always divided into two factions when it came to this debate.

However, there is also a third faction, spiritually led by filmmakers like Balu Mahendra and Mani Ratnam, who believe that cinema is a visual-storytelling art form.

Selvaraghavan is one of those filmmakers from this third faction. All his films balance the story and the visual language equally.

Regular narrative and weak story

Usually, his plot points and the midpoint of the narration fall seamlessly in a truly organic sense in all his flicks. That’s because the audience gets to see the emotion in a real physical form.

For instance, in the scene where Kumar takes down a horde of villains alone, he becomes the next big thing in Pudhupettai. We see, the sun rising in the background as the don is about to rise.

Such moments go missing in Naane Varuvean. It’s because the beautiful visual narrative comes with a weak story.

Until the midpoint of the movie, there is this loosely packed series of dark events happening on screen.

The trio of Selva, cinematographer Om Prakash, and the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) Yuvan Shankar Raja exhibits an impactful horror film to us.

The genre revelation itself was such a stunning move towards the intermission.

But post that, throughout the second half, Naane Varuvean spreads itself across two horses and ends up struggling to find what its true genre is: psychological thriller or horror?

The trio cuts down to a duo, where only Om and Yuvan are trying to save this story.

Dhanush’s eyes did it all

prabhu dhanush selvaraghavan

Dhanush as Prabhu in Selvaraghavan’s ‘Naane Varuvean’. (theVcreations/Twitter)

While on the screen, we see Dhanush pulling off something too much for a simple narration.

There’s always a theory that most of Fahadh Faasil’s acting is done through his eyes.

There have been analysis videos, write-ups and articles on just how Fahadh acts with his eyes. People should reconsider their theories after watching Naane Varuvean.

Dhanush’s eyes are just enough to show the difference between the two roles he plays in the film: Prabhu and Kathir.

The crew made serious efforts to clean-shave one of them to distinguish him from the other. I feel that was utterly unnecessary.

The confrontation between Prabhu and Kathir is the only scene where we get to see them together.

Dhanush and multiple roles

Acting in multiple roles isn’t new for Dhanush. He has done that in Anegan (2015) and Kodi (2016). But in both those films, as a protagonist, he was in different shades of good, but never a bad guy.

In Anegan, he was a brave young guy in all versions, who would go to any extent to save his love.

In Kodi, the two versions of Dhanush were representations of two sides of honesty: courage and level-headedness.

Dhanush as Prabhu, Kathir

Dhanush in ‘Naane Varuvean’. (theVcreations/Twitter)

Naane Varuvean differs from those two outings in this context. He is good in one version, while pure evil in the other.

What might have worked, I believe, is that there could have been a negative shade in the innocent Prabhu, much like how there is a soft side to the evil Kathir.

That could have been a live illustration of the Mirugam-Manithan dichotomy in the lyrics of the Rendu Raja song.

This imbalance in the equation is what makes the last 30 minutes of the narration pretty weak as the climax falls flat.

In the childhood scene, we’re only shown how capable Kathir is. There’s no exploration of Prabhu’s potential except for how his happily-married-family-man image is set up.

If the good was defined even stronger, the final battle would have been a treat to watch.

Except for Kathir and Prabhu, no other character is well-defined. We don’t know why there is a role played by Selvaraghavan, who does nothing much to the plot but leads Kathir down a path of bloodshed.

To watch or not to

selvaraghavan and dhanush

Selvaraghavan and Dhanush on the sets of ‘Naane Varuvean’. (theVcreations/Twitter)

On the whole, if you ask me if Naane Varuvean is worth a watch, I would say it is, but “in parts”.

There are parts of Yuvan’s original soundtrack that add value, while Om Prakash’s visual elegance tells the story with lights.

Selvaraghavan’s narrative style changes with the layers of undercurrent.

Finally, Dhanush, throughout this movie, is poetry in motion.

But when all of these come together, there needs to be a definite foundation in the form of a strong story.

Maybe it’s time Selva collaborates with a writer and does wonders. The last time he collaborated with the legendary writer Balakumaran and made Pudhupettai, we know what the outcome was. Wake up, Selva!

Naane Varevean has been streaming on Amazon Prime Video since 27 October.

(The views expressed are personal.)