Sathya: A Remake That Lacks Conviction
Movie Review by Dhanalakshmi R (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Sathya, a remake of the Telugu crime thriller, Kshanam, tries to be gripping. It tries to employ one too many plot twists to retain frame suspense too. But despite all its efforts, the film reeks of mediocrity, owing to its predictability and a lack of conviction. Even though most of the detailing in the film is adapted from the original, ineffective dialogue writing and storytelling clichés dilute the impact Kshanam had on its audiences.
The film follows two narrative tracks in a nonlinear fashion. The first track follows the cold-blooded kidnapping of Swetha’s daughter Riya and the second takes you through her efforts to reach out to her estranged lover, Sathya for help.
The first half of the film poses as a whodunit and gradually transforms itself into neo-noir drama that questions the very existence of the missing child. With each clue that Sathya uncovers, the kidnapping case becomes all the more mysterious. Whether or not he manages to untangle this web of manipulation and fear forms the crux of this story.
In bird’s eye view, every aspect of Sathya appears to be in place. The hero is somber, as he should be; the presentation too is as classy as it was meant to be. The songs and visual language seem to fit the bill as well. But if you take a closer look at the film, flaws in plenty start to unravel one after another.
One of the first aspects that appear out of place in Sathya is the dialogues. They’re either forcefully comical or unbearably long. Furthermore, the usage of English phrases every now and then makes the dialogues sound inauthentic. In one particular scene, Sathya approaches Swetha and lists out the three things he likes about her. He even compliments her physical appearance. Swetha’s father, who is forced to witness this proposal is instantly outraged. The very next day, an infuriated Swetha confronts Sathya and lists out the three things she hates about him in turn. This kind of staging not only looks artificial but also feels unnecessarily prolonged. Considering that Swetha is clearly frustrated, how can she possibly utter such a calculated and rehearsed reply? In many scenes, the character’s state of mind is dismissed by such long and disconnected dialogues.
One of the foremost qualities the visual medium demands is a creative visual establishment of the proceedings in a story, without spoon-feeding it to the audience. But Sathya conveys most of its happenings through dialogues rather than establishing the same through action. Such a heavily literary approach points to the director’s negligence.
Falling in line with most Tamil thrillers, Sathya too has an entirely plastered romantic track. No matter how many duets and exhaustive walks on the beach the director throws into his screenplay, the chemistry between Sathya and Swetha is always out of sync. Right from the moment they profess their love to each other, everything looks feigned. Even the reasoning behind their split-up seems silly. Most of the concepts that are executed in the romantic scenes are inspired from Mani Ratnam films. For example, there are many scenes where Swetha and Sathya scream out each other’s names at the beach and sing in the car. These kinds of montages look misplaced in the film.
Halfway into the narration, Sathya’s approach to the story track and its style of presentation too begins to bear resemblances to many mainstream Indian films. The body language of the characters and their style of dialogue delivery in particular seem to be influenced by Gautham Menon’s body of work. Many of Sathya’s monologues will remind you of a GVM hero. Considering that the film is already a remake, this rehashed style of narration takes away from the credibility of the director. Rather than piecing together bits and pieces of exhausted mainstream film references, if the director had made efforts to infuse his individual style into the film, it could’ve served him better.
The non-linear approach this film takes upon appears raw and amateur in places. In many instances the director gets carried away by the romantic track and places the kidnapping investigation in the backseat. Maybe a much more balanced perspective could’ve lent the film a sharper tone.
Nevertheless, the director has to be applauded for his manner of introducing plot twists. Many twists and turns in the film arrive at unexpected places in the film, leaving you pleasantly surprised. The climax, though predictable is executed in a gripping manner.
In comparison to his early films, Sibi raj has come a long way. He steps into Sathya shoes by putting on a somber personality. Even though his performance definitely needs work, his comfortable screen presence appears promising. As Swetha, Remya Nambeesan delivers a mediocre performance. In a few scenes, it looks as though she’s trying too hard.
On the whole, Sathya could pass for a decent popcorn thriller. But if the director and dialogue writer had revised a few more drafts with finer attention to details, the film would’ve left a lasting impression.