In the riveting 2018 Tamil language thriller Ratchasan, Sub Inspector Arun (Vishnu Vishal) finds himself at the center of a puzzling case and running out of time as a villainous serial killer abducts and brutally murders young school girls.
With very little evidence, and barely any trail left behind by the perpetrator, Arun chases every lead only to see each one dead-end. He kills a suspect nabbed after a difficult pursuit and then sees his niece snatched from under his nose at a crowded birthday party. It’s an exhausting ride for Arun (and an exhilarating one for us) as the relentless search for the faceless demon leaps from one suspect to another. In one thrilling stretch, we see Arun and his team guess the killer’s next victim and get her to safety, only to learn that she has an identical twin that the killer is after. For Arun, it is always one step forward, two steps back.
The choke of the day
As the search reaches a feverish pace, Arun’s friend, Venkat (Kaali) spots a man driving a van in a lonely subway. With clues that Arun gives him over the phone, Venkat is convinced the killer is ahead of him. In a nerve-wracking scene, Arun implores Venkat to pull the trigger on the killer. Does the audience want justice or the excitement to continue?
Director Ram Kumar obliges the thrill-seekers, as a frightened Venkat falters, and the killer turns the tables on him. The thrilling chase continues.
The weak link of the day
As Arun pieces the details together, he learns the real identity of the killer following a back story narrated by an ex-cop. We are transported to the past when the killer was a young schoolboy. His unique medical condition, the constant bullying by schoolmates, and a friend’s confusing behavior release the demon in him. Unfortunately, the cliched perspective – a saint-turning-sinner-thanks-to-the-society – became a disappointing sub-plot in an otherwise absorbing thriller.
In a pivotal scene, chalk flies across the room after a complex equation is solved on the board, as we are introduced to Inbaraj (Vinod Sagar), the 10th-grade math teacher at Chennai’s #1 school. He is every student’s worst nightmare.
He pins a girl down on her face and asks her to obey his “orders” or face repeating a year in the same grade. Vinod Sagar is outstanding in the role of a man you’d love to hate. Watch the evil grin on his face, as the bewildered girl shuts the classroom door. Elsewhere in the building, the serial killer is mesmerizing a packed auditorium and casting a spell on his next victim. His evil intentions aren’t apparent, but in a chilling, stomach-churning montage, accompanied by an eerie piano tune, Director Ram Kumar cuts back and forth between the two villains to set the stage for foul play.
Ratchasan isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Mind over matter
In the climactic finish, Arun faces off one-on-one with the killer. He has to summon all his physical strength to overcome a villain who has a swift response to every attack. The killer is the smartest artist — a musician, magician, and murderer. Arun has to dig deep to recall and exploit the killer’s psychological weakness. It’s a nice touch, emphasizing that heroes win battles with their brains, not just with brawn.
Anuj Chakrapani loves cinema and believes movies, like other forms of art, is open to interpretation. And when you begin to interpret, you realize that the parts are more than the sum. Adopting a deconstructionist approach, he tries not to rate movies as “good” or “bad”, instead choosing to capture what he carries away from watching them. Anuj lives in the SF Bay Area and works for a large technology company.