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Movie Review: Yaavarum Nalam (2009) Back to Movie
Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam
Fans Rating: 83%%83%% 83% (12 votes)
Movie Still Horror has for long been a neglected genre in Tamil cinema, with the few rare entries being marked by unoriginal scripts, poor production values and bad special effects, all of which contributed to a complete lack of genuine scares. Things have gotten a little better recently and 2007's Sivi was a commendable entry with some good scares. But it was still dogged by some of the shortcomings of the earlier horror films. Yaavarum Nalam avoids those shortcomings also. Suspenseful and sensible, it may well be the film that finally bestows legitimacy on the horror genre in Tamil cinema.

Manohar(Madhavan) has just moved into apartment 13B in a highrise along with his family, which consists of his wife(Neetu Chandra), his brother Manoj and his family, and his mom(Saranya). Strange things seem to happen in the house right from the beginning but Mahohar dismisses them as a string of unfortunate coincidences. But he is forced to change his opinion when he notices that a new serial on TV mirrors his own life rather closely.

The movie works mainly because it treads the line between horror flick and thriller very well. While the underlying story may be a horror story, the movie doesn't trumpet itself as a horror movie and avoids resorting to the cheap thrills and scares we usually associate with the genre. There are very few 'Boo' moments or scary images (though opportunities abound for both) and most of the violence is offscreen. In their place, the movie develops atmosphere, a sense of dread and good suspense. So the film differs from other horror movies in that its intent is to tell the story of a man who is scared and not to scare us.

The film incorporates an original, intriguing premise in the way the serial mimics Madhavan's family and life. The other occurrences(the photos, the lift, etc.) that point to everything not being quite right are creepier but they are somewhat routine horror movie material. The life-serial parallel is a very original concept that keeps the screenplay moving while ratcheting up the suspense. As Madhavan, abandoning his beliefs, begins to look to the serial as a prognosticator of upcoming events, the serial basics so familiar to us, like the cliff-hanger episode conclusions, are employed cleverly in the story.

Horror movies, by nature, require some suspension of disbelief. We need to buy into some things and accept certain happenings without questioning their plausibility. This is required of us in the case of Yaavarum Nalam too. We can't, for instance, question how the TV serial characters are able to acquire the sets and other accoutrements needed for the serial. Or why, since they are later shown to be able to communicate with another character, they don't simply communicate with Madhavan instead of setting up the elaborate charade on TV. Such things related to these characters are easy to accept because of their very nature but when it comes to characters who are more grounded in reality, we become more stringent, which is why it feels odd that nobody, other than Madhavan, inspite being avid serial watchers, spots the parallels between the serial and their life.

The movie is in familiar territory when it finally reveals what's behind the strange things happening to Madhavan and the past events and their connection to Madhavan are a staple of horror movies. But it brings the pieces together in a way that resolves loose ends and answers most questions. The identity of the person behind the events is a big surprise inspite of there being only a few characters and the way the clues scattered all along are brought into the picture is very clever. The fact that the TV serial foreshadows upcoming events is used right upto the end to induce suspense and surprise.

Madhavan is sincere and believable as the harried man. His camaraderie with his family feels natural and he is intense as required when driven to get to the bottom of things. The movie pretty much revolves around him and so few others in the cast make an impression. Saranya evokes a few chuckles with her now-familiar dialog delivery. The film follows the trend of recent Hindi movies by picturizing the Sexy Mama... number as a music video and tagging it to the end of the film as the end credits roll. Its a good decision since the song wouldn't have fit anywhere else in the movie. Kaatrile... is aesthetically picturized while Kodaiyin Veyyilil... is just generic and catchy enough be the the serial's title song. P.C.Sreeram creates the claustrophobic atmosphere that the movie deserves and the innovative camera angles(like at the start where we are introduced to all the characters from behind or under everyday appliances) catch our eye.

Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam