The first few montages of the yet-to-dawn nocturnal life is enough to invite the film festival community to engage in the story. Visaranai is the big screen transformation of Chandra Kumar's documented novel Lock Up; a true story about how police brutality and inhuman interrogation techniques go into tormenting innocents to admit false crimes. A group of migrants from Tamil Nadu working in Andhra Pradesh are taken into illegal custody by local police . What follows is a gruesome police drill involving batons, boots and banana stems. All they want is a confession; a fake confession. 'Attakathi Dinesh' as Pandi is the stand-up guy unwilling to surrender fearing a larger force at play and more importantly, he wants to do a great many things in life. 'Aadukalam' Murugadoss as Murugan can be easily tricked, Afsal is innocent to the core and Kumar is severally battered at an early stage.
The characters we meet on screen are controlled and manacled by the System in ways unprejudiced. Ajay Ghosh as the vicious Guntur chief Vishweshwar Rao is one such police officer with a disappointing career profile, a face like death and a body trained to beat the shit out of others. But still, Attakathi Dinesh does a great many things as he aspires to do so when he is set free. There is a point of saturation in the film where even Vishweshwar Rao runs out of breath. If apathy, personal gain and atrocity ever had a threesome, mishaps like Ajay Ghosh tend to happen. The harsh acoustics of yelling can get on your nerves at some point. This was a necessity made by the film's structure to facilitate such unrelentless thrashing and torture. With so many battered souls locked up, it puts you in their place and raises questions. But Vetrimaran is not here to preach, his screenplay and dialogues stay direct, relaxed and procedural. Neither the waterboarding nor the vicious slow paced thrashing had any effect on Pandi.It was hope, his tenaciousness, his trickiness and a chance TN police intervention that puts an end to their misery.
Played by the ever obstinate Samuthirakani, Murugavel is a TN police officer on a special mission to trap an elite white collar auditor. Pandi and his friends return a favor and help Murugavel. The second half travels to familiar grounds of Tamil Nadu. The rich and fraudulent auditor KK (Kishore) who spurts money philosophy is the victim of the another brutal interrogation. It is his adage on 'System' that links the background events. All this talk about the System being the Kingmaker and that 'your actions have set things in motion' establishes a thick premonition. Thankfully, this talk is kept to a minimum. Had it not, then a part of audience's imagination would have reached heights of hype expecting a brobdingnagian revelation of some sort.
There is calmness meandering in all scenes. The casual statement of the lawyer and the video logging of reconstruction scene shows the normalcy of situation and sheds light on how police practices defy law and makes you wonder on the number of cases solved by false/forced convictions. Taking a few incentives, Visaranai achieves a gritty cinematic leap. There is also a half baked romantic connection that is left to rot much like the irrelevant voiceless lives in jail. Or maybe it wan't romance. Watching the trailer, you realize a crucial few scenes have been cut from the theatrical print.There is coherence of how the middle class working community from lower backgrounds are taken for granted. The abuse of Shanthi in the hands of her owner, the case of 4 street vagrants picked up from a Nellore park, the provision store owner who is blackmailed - a constant living in fear and hardship. 'Attakathi Dinesh' channels Pandi vehemently. He has the 'Andy Dufresne' kinda reluctance to give in. Pandi sure does suffer a hell lot in comparison. Both wrongly captured. One convicted and the other unwilling to get convicted. Maybe there can be more to say about these characters in contrast. That will be for another day. For a brief period in the last sequence of the first half, it felt like it was going to be a complete escape and survivalist episode.
Secondary characters make a lasting impact especially the promotion ignored officer in TN station. Muthuvel is an upright police pushed by higher officials and disoriented by the System into pursuing Pandi. Personally, my fondness for cinematography has grown rather exceptionally over the past few years. A film devoid of creative and meaningful visual strategy doesn't excite me. There were a few; very few parts in the film that meant visually nothing but then, this emptiness perfectly defines realism - through the dingy corners of highways and the wandering nightlife patrols, the blurry hope of escapism emanates. The final moments are as tense and seems like a cliffhanger until the camera zooms out to the fullest. The sudden pull and push of camera; this shift in movement noticed at a pivotal stage grounds the approach in realism as the handheld camera becomes a secret surveillance tool, an all seeing eye - the eye of the system. As it looks down upon Pandi and Murugavel standing through knee-deep murky water, it signifies the troubled position of two candidates with no evil tendencies irrelevantly chosen by the powerful.
Visarani in its vagueness to expose a larger atmosphere for the Organism of System perfectly sums up the horrible dilemma of innocent fishes pushed into predatory waters that is timely polluted by forces unknown.