Nagesh Thiraiyarangam begins with a cautious disclaimer following the court order: the film is not based on the late actor Nagesh or the Nagesh theatre he owned; it is a work of fiction, and woefully so. But, simple pleasures, first. Nagesh Thiraiyarangam, as the name suggests, is perhaps one of the few tales of horror that doesn’t unfold in a haunted house. It’s still a building but a theatre, and because of that tiny but significant deviation from the usual tropes of the genre, there’s a small glimmer of hope that the film would probably be convincing in its portrayal of the paranormal.
But Director Mohammad Issack wants a horror that would work at many levels, and to that effect he employs plot within subplot, introduces romance, a contrived premise with family, and relies on an otherwise funny Kaali Venkat for comedy. Nagesh (actor Aari, whose 2014 highway romance, Nedunchalai, remains one of his career best) is an unemployed youth who suddenly finds himself in need of quite a lot of cash for his sister’s wedding; the job he’d just managed to land is turned over to another aspirant (Ashna Zaveri) – a woman whom he later falls in love with. And so, Nagesh has to resort to selling the theatre that his family owns – but little does he know that the cinema hall already has a resident: a white, hairy, CG-created apparition that dwells in the well in the backyard.
In Issack’s tale though, the paranormal entity is also haunted by her brutal past for which she seeks retribution. She swishes in and out of places at will, has eyes the colour of a tomato and a voice that would shatter glass, slams doors, and generally behaves like a spoiled child. The background score is jarring and loud in these portions, earnest in its intent to scare, but only managing to be unpleasantly noisy. Nagesh and company though, continue to subject themselves to the …supernatural conditions in the theatre, just so that they could disprove the fear surrounding it. It’s a hard plot to sell, but like other films in the genre, it’s a script constructed around elements of horror, with the sole aim to scare, rather than narrate a tale that necessitates audience investment. Unfortunately, Nagesh Thiraiyarangam doesn’t quite fulfill even that singular purpose it sets out with.
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