This year Tamil cinema has seen the feature film debuts of two products of the popular reality show 'Naalaya Iyakunar'. After Balaji Mohan's successful Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi, it is ex-Software Engineer Karthik Subbaraj's turn to make a foray into the industry. The result is a surprisingly good psychological thriller, Pizza.
Michael, played by Vijay Sethupathi, is a Pizza delivery guy living with his girlfriend Anu, an aspiring horror novelist. Cutting all corners to make a living, the couple are forced to marry each other when Anu gets pregnant. A non-believer when it comes to ghosts and spirits, Michael's moment of realisation comes when he notices his Boss's possessed daughter. Things take a turn for worse when he goes to deliver Pizza to a house where things are not as they seem. After giving an impression of a pulpy thriller from the promos, it starts off with a grainy, handheld segment giving off vibes of a found-footage film, only to become something entirely different in the scene that follows. It convinces you of one thing, and immediately shatters your belief.
It's hard to talk about a film like Pizza and not give away anything of importance. Even if it occasionally dabbles in clich\xe9s, the film, on the whole, is a rather well-written thriller. It is evident from the homages to Christopher Nolan, Bryan Singer and references to classic horror films including Kubrick's The Shining that the director is a pakka fanboy who grew up on a staple diet of American mind-bending thrillers. There are sufficient nods to Kamal and Rajni as well; for the first time since Aaranya Kaandam, they don't feel like throwaway references, just hoping to score a few whistles from the crowd. But most importantly, the film incorporates all these tiny elements and comes up with an entirely original plot set very well in the heart of Chennai.
The only problem with the film is that its horror elements are caricaturish and fail to scare. Thinking about it, I don't think spooking the audience was ever their intention. But if it was, then I must say they sorely failed at that. The film heavily relies on its twist that it doesn't do proper justice to the tale it is spinning inside the haunted house. The over-confidence that 'everything will be alright and audience will forget the dull time they had when we show them our true colors' doesn't help the film's cause. The crowd quickly became restless and was jeering out loud. Personally, I am not a fan of the ending, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's the aspect that impresses most people. In its attempt to finish things off with a bang, it goes for something one would expect to see in short films made by high-school students. But I guess it is necessary to drive home the point of Karma.
Craft-wise, the film is very neat. The cinematography has to be commended. A major scene takes place inside a dark bungalow with a torch being the only source of light. Even if the direction is not taut enough to hold the audience's attention during that scene, the beautiful lighting salvages the moment. The sound design was much talked about and is pretty decent as well. Santhosh Narayanan's moody, atmospheric score is a highlight. I have become a fan of Vijay Sethupathi. After being a part of Sundarapandian, which had the best ensemble performance in a Tamil film in recent times, he is back to playing the leading man, and he does it rather well. The film rests on his performance and he manages to pull it off.
Sure, it could have been cleverer. Once the trick became clear, I had a wide smile on my face; but the exposition that followed was way too long and detailed. It went on and on, feeding the audience on every last bit of information. In spite of its see what I did there? smugness, the film more or less wins you over. The film passes through a dry patch but the final payoff more than makes up for it. It doesn't demand a second viewing but it wouldn't hurt to watch it again. Keyser S\xf6ze will be proud.view less