Director: Barath Neelakantan
Cast: Arulnithi Tamilarasu, Shraddha Srinath, Yogi Babu
Barath Neelakantan comes across as one of those first-time directors who is self-referential, who loves to love cinema and likes to make that clear to you. He probably likes the word “meta” even if the rest of the film world has come to hate it. Or should I say film analysis world? In his film K-13 (the title refers to an apartment number) starring Arulnithi and Shraddha Srinath, he namedrops and poster-drops The Shining. An unnamed character refers to the poster and says “Jack-u”. There are multiple instances of Arulnithi’s Mathi claiming to love the process of story building and filmmaking. Barath Neelakantan does spin a good yarn in the first 30 minutes of K-13 (the film runs a not-so-brisk 103 minutes) with the opening sequence holding quite the incredible shock value. Mathi is wrapped in tape to a chair and he could hardly recollect the events of the previous night, when he met a girl in a bar. He tries to break free but topples over. And then we find out some things along with Mathi.
That’s the thing with K-13. It is interesting when Mathi and we – in the audience – are on the same page. He is locked inside an apartment; doors are shut and so are details. There are apologies written on the walls of the house and photo frames broken. Barath is able to hold our interest as long as people don’t speak in his film. Once they start speaking, the tiredness in the writing shows. There is an artificiality to the bar scenes where Mathi and Malar (Shraddha Srinath) converse. At least one of them is missing a beat or the lines do no favours to the actors. It’s as if neither of them is used to talking to strangers in a bar. They bond on the shared love for their calling – writing, storytelling. Again, it is insisted upon that storytellers would go the distance, to any extent for that good plot. Mathi, soon after he wakes up, does some stupid things in panic. Later his senses kick in, the storyteller in him tries to be smart – he tries not to leave any evidence of his presence.
If you haven’t guessed already, Mathi is a disillusioned artist. Malar is a depressed, heartbroken writer. But at least for a while, Barath’s film is constructed cleverly enough for us to wonder who is calling the shots here. Are we in Mathi’s mind? Or are we in Malar’s machinations? But with this plot level detail fleshed out, K-13 cries for better filmmaking. There are hints of it in the opening portions but Barath doesn’t make the film claustrophobic enough. There are a variety of ideas to mine here. An apartment Mathi cannot get out of. A dramatic day unfolding on the other side. Unexplained events inside. We must be sweating and biting nails along with Mathi. But we are as indifferent as Mathi and Malar are passionate about their respective professions. Barath loses his way further in the second half. A look into Malar’s personal life that is confounding and unconvincing. There is a brain fade of a detour to outside the apartment. At least a hundred times that Mathi could have been caught literally red-handed but doesn’t. If he was caught, all the better, K-13 would have been a short film.
A lot of things about K-13 is unconvincing. We walk out with more questions than answers, not about the mystery but about the very idea of this film because the way it arrives at its resolution is a cop-out. Is that it? But, how did he? Just like that? How did she? Should we wait for a sequel? To reference-drop like Barath Neelakantan again, all heavy plotting and no reward makes K-13 a dull film.
The K-13 review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.