Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru

Karthick Naren’s debut film is a police procedural thriller that twists and turns its way through retired cop Deepak’s memories of his final case. The story slowly builds up over time and the pieces all finally start to come together as Deepak relates his murder investigation to a young wannabe cop. The answers are kept well-hidden until the end, adding tension and intrigue to the tale. Although the final reveal isn’t as satisfying as it could have been, overall this is an excellent first film and one well worth revisiting before the release of Karthick Naren’s highly anticipated Naragasooran. 

The film begins with Deepak (Rahman) meeting the son of a friend in the police force. The idea is to try and dissuade him from joining up by relating the events that led up to Deepak’s enforced retirement after a serious injury. Once the scene is set, the film then moves into flashback mode to relate the events from 5 years ago, starting with a traffic accident on a wet night in Coimbatore. Three friends out driving hit and kill a pedestrian, but rather than calling for the police, they pile the body into the boot of the car and head for home. Mano (Praveen) and Melvin (Karthikeyan) are easily led by Fabian (Santhosh Krishna) who makes all the decisions and explains to them why they need to hide the body. Fabian is an arrogant rich kid with delusions of importance in his area, while Mano and Melvin are hangers-on with apparently no minds of their own. However, their reputation in the area is bad enough that the police investigation immediately targets them when a body is found near the park the next day.  

The murder victim has been shot, and although Deepak suspects Fabian is concealing something, he doesn’t believe he was involved with the murder. At the same time, the police are alerted to the disappearance of a young woman from a nearby block of flats where they find the murder victim’s blood on the wall. With the help of Sergeant Rajan (Pradheep) and his young colleague Gautham (Prakash Vijayaraghavan), Deepak starts to unravel the events that led to the car accident, the disappearance of Shruti (Yashika Aannand), the murder of Krish (Vinod Varma) and eventually to his own injuries. 

The case is convoluted, and there are plenty of twists in the story, including the disappearance of the accident victim’s body from Fabian’s car. There is also the puzzle of Shruti’s friend Vaishnavi (Anjana Jayaprakash) who reports her disappearance but seems to have lied about the time of her arrival in Coimbatore, and then vanishes when Deepak tries to find out why she concealed the truth. Throughout it all, what impresses is the matter of fact approach to the investigation while the realistic addition of mistakes and missteps by the investigating officers keeps a level of confusion that adds to the mystery. There is an ongoing issue with Deepak’s mobile phone for example. Firstly, he forgets to take his phone home, which means that no-one can contact him about the murder. Then he has an issue with his phone charging and has to use Rajan’s phone, while various other officers are frequently uncontactable by phone. Other mistakes occur because junior officers either forget to notify Deepak of a new finding, or simply dismiss evidence because they don’t think it sounds relevant. 

Rahman is excellent as Deepak, and his relationship with Prakash Vijayaraghavan as the young Constable Gautham provides a steady grounding for the narrative. Rahman is all businessman cop, there is no wasted emotion, and the case proceeds in a dry, but not dispassionate manner. There is plenty of concern for the missing girl, frustration about the lack of progress, but also some humour and camaraderie between the investigating officers. I love the attention to detail in each scene. The staging is perfect, from the tank of topical fish in Shruti’s apartment to the small vignettes that take place in the background in almost every external scene. As Deepak is talking to colleagues on the phone, Shruti’s neighbour and his wife are having a heated discussion in the background. It makes the following query from Rahman if Vaishnavi can stay with them more meaningful, along with the glance the neighbour gives his wife at the same time. 

My only real quibble with the film is the ending, which doesn’t flow on as well as Karthick Naren likely hoped. The idea behind the final reveal is good, but the relationship between Deepak and his visitor (Ashwin Kumar) has been too passive to make the final scenes feel as realistic as the rest of the film. Too, I have an issue with the explanation resting on ‘emotions’. Each act was supposedly carried out as a result of strong emotional turmoil, but to me that feels too much of a cop out. Normal people may feel angry, or rejected or any one of the other explanations given here, but that isn’t an excuse to just do whatever they want. While most of the actions depicted here are fairly usual for any murder mystery, they are not normally justified in any way except by saying that the perpetrator was a criminal. The end here suggests that a number of heinous acts can be explained, if not quite excused, by pushing some of the blame onto the victim and the way that they reacted to quite inexcusable behaviour. It’s a small point, but I think a dangerous one, to suggest that the victim has some culpability in a case such as the one depicted here.  

Without this final explanation, I think this would have been a much more satisfying film and one that I could whole-heartedly endorse. As it is, I think it’s technically very good, the performances by Rahman and Prakash Vijayaraghavan well worth watching, and the story intriguing and smartly developed. Overall, Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru is a well-constructed and captivating thriller, that was a well-deserved success for Karthick Naren and bodes well for his next venture. With a less socially disturbing message at the end this would have been a 4 star film, but as it is, for me it’s 3 ½ stars.

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