Diya: A Premise With Potential Let Down By Inconsistent Writing
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Vijay, Diya is a supernatural drama. Just like Karthik Subbaraj’s latest film Mercury, Diya too tries to blend two genres. It aims to sprinkle hints of horror in a film that’s meant to be a tragic emotional drama. While Mercury beautifully captured the essence of both genres with confidence, calculation, and spot-on execution. Diya, on the other hand, proves to be a tiresome experience due to an un-uniform screenplay and hasty character development. To make matters worse, it’s alleged ideological resemblance to a Thai film titled Unborn Child has been under scrutiny.
Diya opens with two tense families who await a young Tulasi’s (Sai Pallavi) pregnancy test results. When the result turns out to be positive, a nineteen-year-old, Krishna (Naga Shourya) is unable to wrap his head around the prospect of becoming a father at such a young age. The two families arrive at a joint decision to have the pregnancy aborted. Five years later, Tulasi and Krishna who are now a newlywed couple notice their family members dropping like flies under mysterious circumstances. The person responsible for these murders and their basis for revenge forms the crux of the story.
The opening scene of Diya is quite tense. This anxiety-ridden scene slowly shifts to an emotional song which then transforms into a happy song. This is an example of how inconsistent the writing is in Diya. Throughout the film, characters and their emotions are carried out in a hurried manner. Considering the fact that the entire story is centered on Tulasi, one would expect to receive a window into her thoughts and feelings. But the director never slows down enough for the audience to resonate with her thoughts. In fact, you realize she’s still carrying around emotional baggage only when it’s eventually thrust down your throat. Why will the audience be interested in a film with an emotional beat that is way off the mark?
Moreover, supernatural films depend on the big reveal of an unexpected plot twist. But in Diya, this plot twist is revealed just ten minutes into the film. Now that you know who is responsible for the killings, all that is left is to witness the manner in which they die. Due to this tactless decision, the hundred minute film feels overlong and tiring.
On paper, the idea behind Diya appears new and exciting. But the problems in the staging, execution, character development, and screenplay drag the film down. Here and there, the concept behind a few scenes in the film appear interesting. For instance, the scene where Tulasi tries to rescue Krishna is written with a lot of imagination. But it fails to take off due to poor execution. To discover such amateur mistakes in a film by an established director like Vijay is disappointing.
To make matters worse, as the closing credits roll, Director Vijay presents the statistics of abortion in India. He makes the highly debated pro-life plea. But bringing such a sensitive issue such as abortion into a film that cannot even hold the weight of such a message let alone do justice to it, is a definite mistake.
As Thulasi, Sai Pallavi holds her own in close-ups, especially in emotional scenes. But till the end, you never empathize with her character. Due to weak character development, you are left unaffected by the tragedy that enveloped her life. As Krishna, Naga Shourya delivers a sub-par performance. His acting skills prove to be limited and his lip-sync in Tamil is way off the mark. These mishaps prevent you from taking his character seriously.
One of the deep-rooted problems with Diya is the hasty manner in which it develops its characters. Most of the characters never receive enough breathing space to grow and thrive. Other characters just don’t fit into the screenplay. Take RJ Balaji’s character, Raghavan for instance. The innumerable ‘Raghavan instinct’ references from Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu leave you annoyed. Instead of providing comical relief, his character invites unintentional comedy by suddenly growing serious overnight. Elango Kumaravel’s talent is wasted as Raghavan’s sidekick. Why enlist such a talented actor in a scopeless role?
Music Director Sam CS and cinematographer Nirav Shah act as saving graces of the film. Sam CS’s BGM proves to be quite powerful and his music repeatedly tries to build a connection with the audiences. Nirav Shah’s cinematography proves to be easy on the eyes and tries to build a rapport with the audiences through refined visual storytelling cues. These aspects might make Diya bearable but it doesn’t compensate for its overwhelming flaws.
On the whole, Diya is an average film. Its genre is unclear, it’s writing is insufficient and its screenplay is underwhelming.