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‘Nibunan’ Review: A Pacy Quest For An Underwhelming Killer

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Nibunan does one thing effectively – it engages. Never mind the off-the-mark humour (Prasanna does a rhyme that goes ‘Achamillai achamillai achamenbadhillaye, biryani endhan urimaye’), a psychotic killer who is a serious letdown, and a plot that bears a strange yet striking resemblance to the Talwar murder.

This movie keeps you hooked.

For a while, the theatre hangs on Arjun’s every word. He’s heading a team of officers – Prasanna as Joseph and Varalaxmi as Vandhana – who have been appointed to investigate a disappearance, and subsequently, a murder. They’re being thwarted by the killer at every turn.

A killer who is on a murdering spree, exhibits all signs of being a maniac, and leaves obscure, yet seemingly interconnected clues about his next target.

*****

Early on, Nibunan establishes the kind of specialist DSP Ranjit Kalidoss is. Emerging from a high-octane gun fight in an abandoned building – the opening scene of the movie – three officers share a light moment on the road-side. The DSP casually wonders if the woman officer’s earrings are new. ‘Kazhugu kannu’, she says Next, he wins a game at a party, nimbly fixes up a dismantled gun well before his younger colleagues can.

DSP Ranjith Kalidoss, Nibunan tells us, is quick of mind and eye, and deft with weapons. So, it wouldn’t really take him long to establish motive for the series of murders that has everyone puzzled. A social activist, a woman doctor who had seemingly done nothing to warrant the brutal torture that she was subjected to, and a lawyer.

*****

The only laugh out loud moment in Nibunan also belongs to Prasanna. He’s investigating at the site of the murder when he’s seized by a sudden suspicion.

Officer Joseph brings back the witness he was interrogating, asks him what he was doing there in the middle of the night. I work shifts, the witness says, and audibly mutters something about inefficient constables. Officer Jo is incensed, and the DSP chides the witness for calling him a constable, perhaps to the ire of real constables in the audience.

Kolai senjavungula vitturunga, the witness mutters again.

*****

Nibunan, which stars Suhasini Mani Ratnam in a cameo, draws quite a bit on the 2008 Aarush Talwar murder. It features a set of busy and worldly parents who give their child everything, except their time. The teenager, starved for affection, engages in an illicit relationship with the domestic help. The father deals with the situation by picking up one of his golf clubs, the weapon of choice, which is later recovered from the golf course.

Journalist Avirook Sen, in his book titled Aarushi, explains the kind of societal judgment that the parents of the slain girl – perceived to be high-society dentists – were subjected to, even by the cops.

Sen notes in his book that the police found it strange that the mother remained dry-eyed on the day of the murder, and that her responses to the police were clipped. The couple’s marriage and their relationships were called into question. Allegations were slapped against them. All because their lifestyle was one the cops did not understand.

Nibunan switches out the dentists for architects, but leaves the details intact. It points to a consensual relationship between the teenager and the help, and subsequently retells the murder with its own theories.

The parents arrive home from a cancelled party, only to walk in on their daughter and the help. The mother, while on her way up to check on her daughter, is heard remarking that the evening hadn’t been a complete waste, after all – they got to drive around in their new car.

That’s the trope that Nibunan subscribes to.

*****

The movie’s script reaches out to please the masses, while also being inclusive of the filmmaker’s tastes. There’s fast-paced action, mystery, romance that infantilises the woman, an affliction that the hero needs to overcome, quirks – Arjun’s, Varalaxmi’s, the killer’s – and the psychotic killer himself, who is the disappointment.

For all the haunting music, and the zodiac codes that he deals in, Kreshna in blacks and a hood, driving a Scorpio with a scorpion for a dashboard toy is completely underwhelming. You expect to see someone you don’t: an old woman perhaps, who doesn’t have an obvious motive, or a lovely little twist akin to Adhe Kangal, or a nurse-turned-murderer that one of those Kurt Wallander novels features.

But all that Nibunan serves up in the end, is Kreshna, trying his best to be psychotic.

For someone who masks his victims with the zodiac head of the next, you’d at least expect to see a string of odd gems around his neck – à la Vijay Sethupathi in Vikram Vedha.

Whatever happened to god-fearing villains, anyway?

*****

The Nibunan 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.

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