Navarasa review: Mani Ratnam’s Netflix anthology on 9 emotions is a mixed bag
Navarasa is here! Let’s face it. Without Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchapakesan, such an attempt would not have been possible in the Tamil film industry. Navarasa, as we know it, is a nine film anthology based on nine human emotions: compassion, laughter, wonder, disgust, peace, anger, fear, courage and love. With subjects this broad, it ideally depends on the director’s interpretation of that particular emotion.
Each episode lasts a maximum of 30 minutes, with the exception of Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru by Gautham Menon, which lasts 45 minutes. Did the audience feel the nava rasas? Let’s find out.
Director Bejoy Nambiar’s Edhiri is the first film of the bunch. The story follows a young man (Vijay Sethupathi), whose pent-up frustration drove him to commit murder (Prakash Raj). He has a reason and a strong one for that. But, the guilt of killing a human does not leave him. He asks for an apology from the wife (Revathi) of the person he murdered.
Edhiri talks about how anger blinds people and is the driving force behind their actions. With Vijay Sethupathi, Revathi, and Prakash Raj in the cast, Edhiri could have been a striking story that speaks of compassion. However, the film is missing for miles. Just as we start to feel for the characters, it ends. Therefore, the emotion did not leave an impact on the audience as much as it should have.
Title: Summer 92
The king of comedy Velusamy (Yogi Babu) is a successful actor today. He is invited to his school as a guest of honor where he begins to recount the times he failed the 9th standard.
For a film focused on the emotion of laughter, Summer of 92 has only a handful of funny moments. While it won’t make you laugh out loud, the events recounted by Yogi Babu will take you on a nostalgic journey. Carefully written by director Priyadarshan, it’s the final act that brings some breathing space to an otherwise boring film.
Title: Agni Project
Director Karthick Naren chose a sci-fi thriller modeled on Christopher Nolan’s films to convey the emotion of wonder. The film follows the story of Vishnu (Arvind Swami) who features a new device called The Drifter. The device helps turn his subconscious thoughts into reality. He shares his ideas with his friend (Prasanna) who works at ISRO. But, there is a twist.
Any scientific explanation will arouse wonder in you. But, when a concept is not well enough explained, the emotion it arouses is the opposite. And that’s what the Agni project was. With powerful performances by Arvind Swami and Prasanna, Project Agni was like a mini science lesson where it talked about the unconscious, drifting, time travel and multiple dimensions. If only it had been simpler, the film would have done wonders.
Set in 1965, a disgruntled villager (Delhi Ganesh), who is almost 70 years old, is jealous of his nephew’s success in life. He is in a dilemma over whether to attend the wedding of his nephew’s daughter. His ego won’t let him go. When he reasons himself to attend the wedding, he does something that disgusts his daughter (Aditi Balan).
It’s so good to see Vasanth in the director’s hat again. It’s one of the few movies that makes you feel the emotion it was meant for in the end. Like Aditi Balan, the public is also disgusted by Delhi Ganesh’s actions. It is also cathartic to see how jealousy is consumed. The phrase “age has nothing to do with wisdom” is also true in this segment.
Here is the trailer:
Nilavan (Bobby Simhaa), Master (Gautham Menon) and two other soldiers belong to the LTTE. They are at loggerheads with the Sri Lankan army. The two are waiting to strike. When a young boy separated from his family asks for their help, Nilavan takes action. But in doing so, he must pay a heavy price.
Once again, director Karthik Subbaraj brought up the subject of Eelams and the war with the Sri Lankan military. It’s a touchy subject because of the politics and feelings involved. With Peace ?, Simhaa and Gautham Menon played their role well. When Nilavan helps a young boy find his family, you begin to understand the real emotion behind it. But, the next scene shakes you up. It makes you wonder if the film really conveyed the emotion it was intended for.
Arul (Sree Ram) hits a powerful man in the area with a hammer. He is arrested by the police, who question him. Meanwhile, Anbu (Riythvika) is investigating a case and also struggles to control his anger. The troubling events of the young man take us back to the difficult life he leads with his mother and sister.
It’s a startling start for director Arvind Swami. In Navarasa, Roudhram is a film which really conveys emotion and which is a great success. The film took us through the crowded streets and the difficult lives of single women with two children. With financial control, women are forced to do things they are not comfortable with. Roudhram also shows how these events affect the children (Arul and Anbu) and leave a traumatic impact on them.
Wahida (Parvathy) has a normal day in her bungalow. She meets Farooq (Siddharth) and is completely drawn to him. They have an in-depth conversation about calligraphy and slowly Wahida begins to realize that Farooq is not the person who is sent to her house to get a signature.
The story of director Rathindran Prasad could have gone from scary to frightening. And that surely caused fear when you think of Wahida’s situation. For the most part, Wahida lives in fear and rightly so. Siddharth and Parvathy’s performances keep you hooked on the story. But as the story progresses, it runs out of steam and then picks up again towards the final reveal. If the tension in the script had been constant, Inmai would have been much more effective.
Title: Pin Thunintha
Veera (Atharvaa) is a rookie and he’s still skeptical of his abilities on the pitch. He and his team face an ambush by the Naxalites in the area. Veera strikes the leader of the Naxalites (Kishore). While transporting him to police headquarters, the captive plays mind games with Veera. Meanwhile, Veera’s wife (Anjali) awaits his return.
Thunintha Pin by director Sarjun KM is written by Mani Ratnam. As a military man, Veera is just too dumb to react in difficult situations. The movie is about courage, but nowhere in the movie (except for the climax) does it show even an ounce of courage. He knows the captive could escape, but leaves him in the car. The scenario is random and the courage element strikes us only during the final monologue. Thunintha Pin is a huge disappointment.
Title: Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru
Kamal (Suriya) is a Grammy nominee (no kidding), performing his hit numbers in a London cafe. He tells his story of his meeting with his lover Nethra (Prayaga Rose Martin) through his songs to the people of the cafe.
Gautham Menen and love are inseparable. With Guitar Kambi Mele Nindru, we find a new version of the director’s previous films. Suriya and Prayaga’s chemistry is exploding onscreen. But, the film is a little too long to feel the emotion. In addition, the dialogues are too explanatory and it seems repetitive when they confess their love. The songs of composer Karthik, especially Thooriga, are perfect for this musical. However, the movie could have been made a lot more interesting with some new footage.
2.5 out of 5 stars for Navarasa.
SEE ALSO | Navarasa first notice. Fans call Suriya’s Kambi Mele Nindru guitar a visual treat
SEE ALSO | Mani Ratnam says he prefers producing films to directing at Navarasa Global Fan Meeting