If you’d never watched a Tamil movie before, then I’d suggest that you start with the movie Interrogation (Visaranai) that’s available on Netflix.
The movie follows four migrant workers from Tamil Nadu working in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh.
The first scene opens with them spending the night in a public park and how they start their day by dodging the guard who wants them to pay for their stay. Pandy (the main character played by Dinesh Ravi) works in a kiosk owned by a Tamil like him who’s been living in the state for thirty years.
Within the first fifteen minutes of the movie, the friends are captured and taken into custody for an unknown reason. But this is not a Hollywood movie where people are put in clean cells or have access to lawyers. The police station scenes are the most nerve-wracking not only because of the brutality practised on victims, but also for the confusion it creates: what have the four men done to deserve such treatment? And why can’t they say something to stop it?
The answer is simple yet tragic: none of them speaks or understands Telegu (the local language of the state) except for one who understands it but can’t express himself in it. Even worst: they’re being framed for a burglary they didn’t commit. Luckily, fate has other plans. The four suspects path crosses with another Tamil police officer called Muthuvel (played by Samuthirakani) who vouches for Pandi, which makes the judge release the friends at once. Within minutes of their release, they’re asked to return Muthuvel’s favour before returning to Tamil Nadu with him. On arrival, they’re told to tidy up the police station as the cleaners weren’t coming that day. And while carrying out their chores they realise that both police stations they’ve been to share a common trait: both are tainted by corruption.
Unwillingly, Pandi and his friends get entangled in the web of deceit that not only involves Muthuvel that they trusted blindly but the whole district. Would they be able to get away or will the corruption machine crush them like everyone else?
The movie could be divided into two parts: the first part when the main characters are in Andhra Pradesh and the second part when they go back to Tamil Nadu.
The first part is based on the autobiographical novel called Lockup written by N Chandrakumar, who was arrested in Guntur in 1983 and was subjected to two weeks of torture to confess to a crime he didn’t commit. The second part was a bit confusing as it kept orbiting around local politics and police force corruption, which wasn’t really clear to a foreign viewer like me.
Nevertheless, the emotional intensity of the movie wasn’t lost from the first scene till the final one. Viewers are kept at the edge of their seats by a combination of a looming sense of doom mixed with a flicker of hope that things can’t be that bad.
The movie won Amnesty International Italia Award at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival in 2015. It was also India’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards but sadly wasn’t selected. It won many local film awards including Best Supporting Actor (Samuthirakani) and Best Feature Film in Tamil in the 63rd National Film Awards. Interrogation filled with paradoxes that makes you laugh incredulously at times questioning the absurdity of the whole situation and leaving you stunned at others; a rollercoaster ride that is thought-provoking yet emotionally draining. Not to be missed.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.