Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Tamil film Witness which is streaming on SonyLiv. It is often been the trait of the OTT platform SonyLiv to back small and independent films from different regions. By doing so, the OTT platforms has ensured that small little gems are broadcast to a larger audience and invariably the films will find an audience and their voice as well. This has been a practice that has consistently been seen over the past one year and I believe no other OTT platform has been as consistent or responsive in this aspect. So when I did come across the film I was curious on what the film had to offer. Moreover, the film did co-star Shraddha Srinath who has been my celebrity crush for a while(😁), and I was curious on what she had to offer here as well. The film seemed like a powerful social drama, now that I have finished Witness, here are my two cents on the same.
Story & Screenplay
Witness follows the story behind a death of a 20 year old boy after a manual scavenging act. Will justice prevail? The story here is supremely relevant and very powerful. A year back I had seen a documentary on manual scavenging by Samdhish Bhatia, and that was shocking in many ways. It was a ground report on lives of some of the manual scavengers while they were on duty. By the end of it, I did feel bummed down and extremely low. Surely in the 21st century there are better equipments that would eradicate the manual work in this area. But if still people are coaxed into perform these duties then it is a shame and it angers me to no limit. And a similar case has been shown here. The screenplay standing at a shade above 2 hours is the right length but because the drama is so heavy that it becomes a little difficult to binge watch this.
The drama opens with the introduction of the young boy and his mother and it is shown that both of them do have a beautiful relationship. But that is short lived when tragedy strikes almost within the first 10 minutes out of the blue! I did like the writing here which chose not to waste any time on the buildup and get straight to the point. The incident is a bit of the jolt but the worse is yet to come. I really liked how the politics around the manual scavenging was tapped into. The politics here is not at the high level but at the grassroot level atleast to begin with.
The drama is a slow burn and tactfully taps into the dynamics of all the stakeholders involved. From initially trying to buy off the victim’s family to the feeble threats being thrown in, the issues being dealt here are disturbing and most likely to make you angry. In fact, winning at any cost was the norm in the drama as a result of which every opposition was trampled along the way, in a sad state of affairs. There is a subplot featuring the character of Shraddha Srinath who is on the other side of the spectrum yet does wish to offer health only to be obstructed and vandalized at various junctures. But amidst the chaos, the life that has been lost is given less importance to with only the mother being the real victim of the situation. Having to burden the loss of a child is probably the worst thing for a parent, more so a mother, and that aspect has been tapped into rather well.
There is a documentary feel to the drama in a few scenes that do act as a mirror for the society. The courtroom scenes has a dash of situational humour although the proceedings are very interesting as they unfold. The level of politics is taken a notch higher in these scenes wherein the authorities are questioned as each one of them does keep ‘passing the buck’ at every juncture. For the viewer this does become frustrating and the writing does lead you on this emotion. There is also a subplot of the mother being heckled by authorities by not paying her salary, all of which constitute the ‘system’ that all of us are part of. The final act is a moving one wherein you do feel angered and helpless despite all the evidence pointing towards the other side. The writing here is a subtle satire in many ways too instead of the in your face kind of approach that overall sums up a screenplay that is quietly powerful and supremely relevant.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are powerfully penned and make for an impactful viewing. The BGM is good and does blend well with the drama. The cinematography will make you slightly uncomfortable with the raw footages but I do feel that this aspect could have been explored a little more. Director Deepak does an incredible job in weaving a tale around a powerful issue that will most definitely anger you and make you think long after the drama has ended.
The performances are excellent by the entire cast. Shraddha Srinath is terrific here in a role that required her to have a kind of empathy and restraint to it. Her performance here is nuanced and absolutely brilliant. Rohini who plays the character of the mother is brilliant and she conveys her pain through some brilliant expressions so much so that you empathize with her throughout. The approach here was alwats to stay mellow while expressing your inner turmoil and she does a brilliant job.
Witness is a powerful drama on a burning social issue that comes with my highest recommendation. Available on SonyLiv and Highly Recommended!