Richie makes a poster boy out of Nivin Pauly for the Tamil audience. Nivin, with his fine set of teeth and accented Tamil may take some warming up to, and serves as a kind of stark reminder that there’s a world of difference watching him in a Malayalam film where he doesn’t have to constantly chew paan (and spit, spit spit) to make up for lapses in lip-sync. But he does have an imposing screen image; the rugged look comes in handy when he has to punch someone’s nose in – an act that he’s engaged in almost all the time. The movie gives him a distinct swagger, too.
Richie is the seemingly irreverent bad boy born to a pastor (Prakash Raj). A brutal past and an absent parent later, he enlists in the service of a local gangster (GK Reddy).
Richie, a remake of the Kannada movie Ulidavaru Kandanthe, is presented as a collection of vignettes about an ostensibly fascinating personality. When the movie begins, Shraddha Srinath, in the role of a journalist, attempts to piece together a story about him – an echo from the past. As several people present their memories – little chapters unto themselves with pulpy bookends – there’s almost a crescendo effect. But, Richie – apart from eliciting hoots and whistles (something potently masculine about a craggy beard) – fails to make us care. He embarks on this cycle of systemic abuse, violent behaviour and sudden spurts of kindness, almost as if the director wants to weave in layer upon layer of complexity. The oddball with a sad past, who wreaks vengeance on the unsuspecting world, there isn’t enough compulsion to believe in or sympathise with Richie.
It seems to be the season of the good-looking, bearded misfits though. Arjun Reddy’s Arjun Reddy may not perhaps have had a past to speak of for his present was all too consuming with general assholery, but Richie’s Richie has a misunderstood childhood as well. And that’s why, we are repeatedly told, with flashbacks in sepia lest we forget, he kills and blunders about and does the things he does. Despite the obvious nudges that the script throws though, there’s barely any feeling towards him. He remains a distant albeit striking speck on screen, someone whose swagger is a lot more noticeable – and appreciable – than what he tries to breathe life into. And when he dances – boy, is he good at it – it’s a delight to watch. The music just sways with him.
What Vikram Vedha – a recent movie that had successfully made a hero out of its antagonist (Vijay Sethupathi) – had done to great effect, was to introduce another character (Madhavan) – not entirely dissimilar, but just with a superficially different personality. The hero, white on the outside, had progressed towards distinctly greyer areas, while the ‘villain’ also hit the same spot from the other end of the spectrum. In Richie though, the other guy (Raj Bharath), whom the script wants you to hate, invokes the same degree of dispassion as the eponymous lead. Other character threads – mildly interesting ones played by Natarajan Subramanian, Kumaravel and Lakshmi Priya – are devoted much time to, but almost seem disconnected from the star vehicle that seems to have been especially tailored to fit Nivin Pauly. Nivin as Richie though, leaves us feeling ambivalent at best.
The Richie 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.