Richie Review - A misfire!
When Nivin Pauly read out the mandatory health advisory in Tamil before the opening credits in his own voice, I was sceptical because of his obvious diction. I probably thought I would get used to it after a while. But that while took a long time coming as Nivin enters the fray only after some 25 minutes into the film. That is definitely generous from the star as this film is more keenly looked at as a launching pad for him in Tamil. From his Malayalam films we know for sure that he is never particular about hogging the limelight or occupying the maximum screentime. But the issue here is the title of the film. This film is about a handful of characters and never about Richie alone. Wikipedia says the film was previously titled as Santa Maria and then Avargal.The only reason I could fathom for the title was the intent to lure in the Tamil audience who love the glorification of its hero.
In the opening credits the maker had a long list of persons he thanked, probably as the source for his inspiration. One among the list was RGV and he was listed as Ram Gopal Varma (upto 2005). The director should be having a taste for sly humour. But it never makes its presence in Richie which is dark and gloomy throughout. It is obviously intentional to treat the film this way. But I wonder why ? I haven't seen the Kannada original and so comparisons are out of the question. But a google search returns the runtime of Ulidavaru Kandante as 154 minutes against the much shorter Richie (110 mins). So this isn't a xerox version for sure. Hence the alienated feel of the film is all the more a surprise.
Richie is high on style.The film uses animation, non linear narration, quirky camera angles and episodes treated as chapters. This is not a film that you can write off as 'style without substance'. There is a whole lot happening but we remain indifferent to the events on screen. The emotional connect never happens and this hurts the film badly. The narration is through a journalist who recounts the stories she has heard from people and she is fascinated. But that fascination never transfers to us. Few scenes like the one where Richie meets his friend after a 15 year gap keep lingering on and on to the point we become restless. Two fateful incidents are what the film is about. One when Richie was a kid and one in the climax. Both affect a handful of characters. Had the film had lighter shades in the intermediate periods these pivotal points in the plot might have worked. But the overtly dark treatment ensures that we never feel the low that we are suppossed to feel at these crucuial junctures.
Nivin Pauly's performance is more about effort than results. It is a big surprise to those of us who are used to his ease on screen. Natty (Natraj) as always has that certain presence about him even in a limited screentime. The uniformly dark treatment has ensured that we never get to see the different shades of the entire cast.
Richie is a very different film.But sometimes that is not enough.