PSYCHO (2020)

  • Release Date: 24/01/2020
  • Cast: Rajkumar Pitchumani, Udhayanidhi Stalin, Aditi Rao Hydari, Nithya Menen
  • Director: Myshkin

I hate Psycho as much for its inadequacies as I love it for its stellar moments

Psycho chronicles the story of a psychotic killer played by Rajkumar Pitchumani about whom very little is known. As per police records, he has murdered 13 girls over a period of one year. He beheads his victims and dumps their decapitated bodies in public places. We see him save the heads in a freezer. His latest victim is an uncharacteristically sweet RJ, Dagini (Aditi Rao Hydari). As he is about to chop off her head, he senses no fear in her and that surprises him. When asked, Dagini tells him that, she will be his last victim as the love of her life will find him and put an end to his crimes. The killer then hastily decides to spare her life for 7 days and see if her lover can deliver on her belief.

Gautham (Udhayanidhi Stalin) has fallen head over heels in love with Dagini over a period and she had just started warming up to him when she is kidnapped by the killer. He cannot accept this sudden loss of her and when the police are unable to find any clues about her whereabouts, he decides to look for her on his own. The problem is, he is blind. In order to aid his search, he enlists the help of a quadriplegic police officer, Kamala (Nithya Menen) who was previously pursuing the same case. The two set out on a hunt that would not only push them to the brink but would also test them on how best they can cope with their crippling deficiencies and still stand tall against a marauding killer.

Psycho is an extremely difficult film for me to review as there is so much of it that I just loved and then there was a lot that I had a big problem with. In Indian film industry one hardly comes across a film that is so good and so bad at the same time and hence for someone like me, who generally has a pretty easy task of just loving or loathing a film, is not equipped enough to deal with a perplexing film like this. I will still try to be as objective as possible with this review. let’s start with all that I loved about the film.

Rajkumar Pitchumani as the Psycho Killer

Rajkumar Pitchumani as the psychotic killer is stellar. This was his debut film and it would be safe to say that he hits it out of the park in his very first film. The man looks like a hero and there is something in his eyes that tell you that he is not a bad person and should be supported. Yet we see him mercilessly kill people for no rhyme or reason. After he decides not to kill Dagini instantly, he treats her with enough compassion to make the viewer uncomfortable. We are used to hating our one-dimensional villains but Rajkumar Pitchumani brings out a very different facet of an otherwise despicable killer. It must be his charismatic performance that makes the character so charming even though he is doing something horrifying. Having said that, he can induce terror when he has to, and he shows that over and over again. Rajkumar is easily the best thing about this film and if it was not for his act the film would have fallen flat on its face.

Fascinating story, concept, and engrossing screenplay

The film is loosely based on the Buddhist tale of “Angulimala”. A large portion of the screenplay unfolds without giving us any idea of who the psycho killer is even though we see his face and know that he is a big shot hotelier right from the beginning. We are also not informed why he is doing by murdering the innocent girls. We are also forced to wait for the protagonist to unearth how he is choosing his victims. We learn about his motives very late in the film and up till that time the interest in the story is retained. Once Dagini is kidnapped, the story focusses on Gautham and Kamala’s search for the killer leaving everything else aside. This serves the story well as the film perpetually ignores everything that is non-essential to the plot. It would be safe to say that the protagonists keep coming dangerously close to the killer and yet something or the other happens that saves the killer from being caught or killing off our heroes. This helps to build tension and keeps the proceedings immersive.

Some extremely well-done scenes

There are some scenes in the film that when judged individually are brilliant. Notable is the scene in which the killer is about chop off Dagini’s head and she looks at him with a smile on her face and not saying a word, the following dialogue between the two, the scene where a police officer— who has been after the killer for years  — finally tracks him down and the sequences that follow his arrival at the killer’s doorstep. I also loved the first interaction between Gautham and Kamala. Nearly every scene that has Rajkumar Pitchumani at the forefront will grab your attention and is well done.

Music by Ilaiyaraaja

The music by Ilaiyaraaja is haunting. When I am watching a film online, I generally fast forward the songs. However, the moment “Unna Nenachu” by the maestro started playing, I was transfixed to the melody. Ever since I have been listening to it every night before going to sleep on a loop. It just brought back a flurry of memories that I had completely forgotten and puts a smile on my face every time. Suffice is to say that Ilaiyaraaja’s music is easily one of the fortes of the film and comes to its rescue time and again. Don’t take my word for it. Just listen to the songs on YouTube and you will get my drift. The picturization of the songs is also apt.

Having said all that, let us now dwell on all that is wrong with the film

Udhayanidhi Stalin’s uninspiring act as the protagonist

Udhayanidhi Stalin is uninspiring and lackluster in a role that demanded a lot of dedication, charisma, and attention to detail. The character is poorly written and that makes the matter worse. He is blind but is shown driving a car with ease. There are scenes and sequences wherein he apparently forgets that he is blind and does stuff that is potentially difficult for someone even with a proper vision to do. Very recently I watched the Malayalam film Oppam where Mohanlal essays a blind protagonist who has almost superhuman fighting abilities. However, the actor essayed the character in a way that made it possible to take him seriously. Udhayanidhi Stalin does no such thing. Wearing dark shades throughout, he also loses on the opportunity to use his eyes as an effective means of depicting his handicap which Mohanlal so successfully achieved. He also doesn’t have the screen presence or charm that would make his act bearable. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he is the weakest link of the film. Rajkumar Pitchumani eats his character up throughout the film not because the antagonist is better written but because Pitchumani simply does a better job at acting it out.

Aditi Rao Hydari’s performance and the writing of the character of Dagini

Aditi Rao Hydari is absolutely stunning to look at, and she has the aura that can easily incite the kind of romance in a man who would follow her to the steps of hell. However, her depiction of an RJ is so far from the real deal that it was instantly noticeable, even to someone like me who is not an avid radio listener. The way she takes an interview of a psychiatrist through which we are introduced to her character and the overall interview, in itself, felt farcical and plunges the film into a ditch right from the very beginning.

The screenplay paints her as someone who despises Gautham for stalking her and even after knowing that he is blind, she doesn’t mind manhandling the man at an event. After that, in the space of a single song we see her heart melt for Gautham which is something that was unfathomable for me. When she is kidnapped, the kid of longing and confidence that she shows for Gautham was just too much to swallow as their relationship had not reached a point where she could expect Gautham to shun his physical limitation and raise above his strength to hunt for the killer.

Her character shows no visible fright of the killer, being killed or watching innocents butchered right Infront of her eyes. Any thinking person would despise the psycho for all that she had witnessed but on the contrary, she develops a soft spot for the murderer and sees him as a victim who was grossly wronged. This is another aspect that I found hard to digest. These are all issues that arise out of poor writing and direction that are just exposed further by Hydari’s uninspiring performance.

Sequences that make no sense and hurt the believability of the film

Mysskin doesn’t put in any effort to realize the film authentically. The concept here was fairly simple to sell but the film has innumerous such sequences that seriously dent the believability of the proceedings. Showing a blind man drive around, the killer wearing a black glove all around yet not inciting any questions, the killer popping up from time to time in front of Gautham for reasons unknown leaving caution to wind, the killer dropping of dismembered bodies in places that he could never access without being spotted and even murdering in an underground garage that is bound to have at least one guard or at least one cc TV camera. I could go on and on ranting about many more such atrocious loopholes but that will be pointless.

The end reveals of the reason for the killings and the climax

The final reveal of the mystery behind what the psycho was doing made me go meh! the idea is just so far-fetched and underdeveloped that it leaves you unsatisfied and makes you question everything that you have seen thus far. The lengths that the psycho goes to to create a certain ritual and his own role in that ceremony was laughable. Once all the mayhem is over, Gautham is just as understanding of the psycho as his about-to-be girlfriend. He should be fuming at the guy and delivering a killer blow instead of being all soft and humane with him. It’s impossible to accept his attitude towards the killer. His name being Gautham doesn’t make him Gautam Buddha. The same can be said about Dagini’s shocking lack of hatred for the man who had imprisoned her and nearly chopped off her head.

Final thoughts   

Taking all the above into account, I must admit that Psycho could have been a great film, but it ends up short because of poor performances, lackluster direction, and some very poor writing. It was a tragedy to see a film that had so much potential go down so meekly.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

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