It is a Tuesday and today I have handpicked a film that did not have a theatrical release in Mumbai! With that, I finished watching the new Tamil film Chithha which has finally made its way to Disney plus Hotstar. The film had a theatrical release of 28th September and I remember listing out the films that weekend, the number of theatrical releases that amounted to double digits! At that point I was sure that the screens will most definitely get divided, so much so that some films wouldn’t even get a release in the first place. And unfortunately, Chithha was one of them, and with a glowing word of mouth, the only thing that I could do is wait patiently to make its way to OTT.
It was last year in 2022 where a Tamil film Gargi had made waves, both theatrically and on OTT. That film did tackle the concept of a person accused of a heinous crime while the film kept you on tenterhooks until the mind-numbing final act. When I did read the synopsis of Chithha, I found it to be an extension of the same while children being the victims of crime here. That for me was quite traumatic, and from the reports that were out, I knew that the film would transcend into being deeply disturbing. But what I was curious about was on how would the makers translate that trauma onscreen. With such high expectations, I ventured in Chithha, does it manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
Chithha follows the story of a young Government employee who gets the shock of his life after his niece goes missing. Will he be able to find her safe and sound? The story here is deeply disturbing while dabbling with the concept of pedophilia which hasn’t really been the core of any film in recent times. The tone of the film is dark and there are several psychological layers that are thrown in through multiple situations in the drama that make for a traumatic watch. I found myself shivering at several instances while my unwavered attention was on the drama. The screenplay standing at about 135 minutes is intense and unsettling given the theme it is trying to convey. And the end result of it is a compelling but deeply disturbing drama that is nerve-wracking in many ways.
The drama does open with the introduction of the protagonist who has a troubled past with respect to the girl that he has loved. On the other hand, his love for his niece(Sundari) is unparalleled and both share a warm equation with each other. The conflict arises in the form of the disappearance of a friend of Sundari who later returns in a state of trauma. That incident was designed to prepare the viewers for the trauma to follow with Sundari. There is enough tension created with the surroundings with the writers doing well to keep the identity of the perpetrator under wraps. This adds to the thrill quotient of the drama that heightens after the disappearance of Sundari.
The proceedings are deeply disturbing while keeping the viewers on tenterhooks throughout. The screenplay navigates to various directions including the investigation of the protagonist himself while almost unfolding like a serial-killer thriller. Along the way, there are several curveballs thrown in that will make you gasp for breath with the writers not holding back at all. There is an atmosphere of suspense and trauma created as you find yourself engaged in the case that itself is deeply disturbing. And because the bond between the protagonist and Sundari was shown to be so warm, you are emotionally invested in the drama too.
The events leading to the final act are interesting, relevant but also a little confusing with what it stood for. There is a layer of social commentary thrown in with respect to one characters that highlights the fact that all men think of themselves as Saints even after they have committed a crime. And they would still want to exercize control the moment something happens to a woman in their family while taking the ‘plunge’ with any other woman around them. This for me was a great representation of patriarchy and how tilted the power control is with respect to gender. I honestly feel that the film should have ended at this point but a little outro painted a conflicted picture that did not sit quite right with me, especially following the rant above. But overall, the screenplay is superbly written and makes for a deeply disturbing and a compelling watch.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues add a layer of intensity to the proceedings while also imparting a relevant message towards the end of the film. The music and the BGM are good and particularly the latter raises the tension in multiple scenes while also maintaining an emotional streak in the drama, something that makes you root for its characters. The cinematography captures some terrifying frames of the act(while taking the action offscreen) and painting a traumatic image in your head. The editing is crisp and sharp and it contributes in maintaining pace in the drama. Director S U Arunkumar does a wonderful job in balancing an emotional core of the drama with lacing it with dollops of trauma which is disturbing. He does create moments of intrigue which will linger on long after the film has ended. The direction is indeed spectacular here.
The performances are wonderful by the ensemble cast. Smart Suresh as Suresh has his moments to shine. Abiya Tasneem as Ponni is phenomenal and your expressions and body language following her ‘trauma’ are so well expressed. Balaji Sonaimuthu who plays the undercover cop is sincere and earnest and his eyes do a lot of the talking in emotional scenes. Anjali Nair as Sundari’s mother is top notch. Nimisha Sajayan as Sakthi(notice the name) is brilliant as ever particularly in the third act when she showcases her past trauma so efficiently. Sahasra Sree as Sundari has such a charming presence on screen that I was the most traumatized with the turn of events with respect to her character. She was so brilliant that you could feel her pain while feeling empathetic towards her. She was astonishingly good. Siddharth as Eesu is absolutely brilliant to witness. There is a certain streak of innocence in his eyes that makes you want to root for him even when his character is accused of a crime. And the bouts of revenge that reflects in his eyes while keeping his innocence intact was a sign of a wonderful actor in red hot form. He was simply phenomenal to witness.
Chithha is a deeply disturbing tale of trauma boasting of superb performances that makes for a compelling and terrifying watch. Available on Hotstar and Highly Recommended!