Imaikkaa Nodigal offers two halves of contrasting tones. The first half is a fairly smart and methodical crime-thriller, in which a psychopath by the name of Rudra (at least, that’s what he calls himself. The CBI officers lead by Nayanthara’s character Anjali, disagree. They killed “the real Rudra” years ago — could this be a copycat?) kidnaps and murders the daughter of a high profile family, while leading the CBI on a wild goose chase. Rudra is acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap (Sacred Games, Gangs of Wasseypur) who in a career defining performance will make you wish he works in front of the camera as much as he does behind. The second half is a commercial action masala (not entirely a stand-up-and-whistle mass movie, but some of those elements are present). Together, this R. Ajay Gnanamuthu film is a competent and entertaining thriller that perhaps could have been so much more.
In the first half, Ajay Gnanamuthu introduces us to a villain who is highly capable. Rudra isn’t your usual moustache-twirling baddie. He’s a serial killer who is immensely intelligent and is always one step ahead of Anjali and the rest of the CBI officers. To him, it’s a game. He’s challenging Anjali, poking fun at her incompetence. That he has a massive personality and the gift of gab makes him all the more creepy.
On top of the cat and mouse chase between Anjali and Rudra, this writer-director also brings up interesting questions like “who is Rudra?” and “what does he want with Anjali in particular?” “What is the link between these two characters?” “Does Anjali know more than she’s letting on?” These questions add another level of intrigue to the already pretty damn engrossing film.
Every now and then we cut to Anjali’s brother, Arjun (Atharva, who previously acted his soul out in Paradesi) and his romantic escapades with Raashi Khanna’s character. Why this subplot is even remotely necessary, I have no idea. But at the time, I assumed it’s because Ajay Gnanamuthu felt the need to infuse commercial ingredients into his story for the sake of the dollar dollar bills y’all but hoped that this cliche ass subplot would find its way into the main narrative — thankfully, I would later realise that it’s the latter. But despite this redundant subplot, I was hooked, eating up every word, analysing every frame for clues, ready to receive all the answers.
For whatever reason, Ajay Gnanamuthu decided to shove the alluring crime-thriller down the toilet in the second half and instead give us an almost-typical action masala after the midpoint intermission. Throughout the entire first half, Rudra had the upper hand over the CBI. We see how even someone as meticulous and experienced as Anjali is repeatedly made to look like a complete joke by this manifestation of evil. The events are dramatised, sure, but still realistic.
How then in the second half, does Anjali’s brother, Arjun, who is a MEDICAL STUDENT mind you, not Sherlock Holmes, manages to figure out who Rudra is faster than the entire CBI? Because he’s a Tamil hero in a masala film and these are matters concerning his love life. If the first half is realistic, the second half has Arjun single-handedly beat the shit out of 35 armed police officers. But how can I complain when the action set pieces are well choreographed and handsomely directed. All the fight scenes, whether it’s Arjun taking on the popos or Arjun going one on one with Rudra are intense — the kind that makes you flex your buttocks. You feel the weight of the punches!
And that about sums up Imaikkaa Nodigal. The twists — all 792 of them — come fast and furious and are mostly ridiculous. The answers to the questions set up early on in the movie are a letdown, lacking both in creativity and smarts. The film also wraps up far too conveniently. But despite all of that, despite it not being the movie that it set itself up to be, despite it not being the movie I hoped to see, it’s still thoroughly entertaining. It’s entertaining as heck because what we do get — a stylised action-packed drama — is well executed.
It’s also entertaining because of the cast. Anurag Kashyap is a gem. This movie might be forgotten by the end of the year, but his performance as the psychopathic serial killer will be ingrained in our minds for the foreseeable future. We also have Atharvaa. And while I would much rather see him bare his soul in movies like Paradesi, he doesn’t miss a beat as an action hero as well.
Finally: Nayanthara. This woman is a Goddamn STAR. In Kolamavu Kokila she plays an innocent girl who stumbles upon the world of cocaine dealing. Here, in a completely contrasting role, she’s a confident and badass CBI agent. She’s awesome there, she’s even better here. It’s also worth noting that Anjali, despite her badassery, is still very much a feminine individual. And I’m not just referring to the way she looks either. I’m talking about that maternal warmth and compassion she exudes. There’s a stark difference between writing badass female characters and writing male characters but getting female actors to bring those characters to life. I’m looking at you Naachiyaar. Anyway, every time Nayanthara pops up, she fills the frame with her ample charisma.
If in 2005 you told me that 13 years later, I would be more excited to catch a Nayanthara movie than one starring Ajith, I would have laughed at your dumb ass. Yet, here I am in 2018 eagerly anticipating the next picture starring this star. Which brings me to the one inexcusable gripe I have with Imaikkaa Nodigal. Why the need for the Arjun character? Or more specifically, why the need for the Arjun character to be the one who dishes out the beatings? Why couldn’t Anjali be the MASS ACTION STAR? Nayanthara vs Anurag Kashyap? Now wouldn’t that have been something.
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The twists -- all 792 of them -- come fast and furious and are mostly ridiculous. The answers to the questions set up early on in the movie are a letdown, lacking both in creativity and smarts. The film also wraps up far too conveniently. But despite all of that, despite it not being the movie that it set itself up to be, despite it not being the movie I hoped to get, it's still thoroughly entertaining.