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Hollywood spine chills gone awry

Appeared in expresso, the daily supplement of The New Indian Express on 28th March, 2011

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Rumours floated that Nil Gavani Sellathey (stop, observe, don’t move) was a rip-off of several Hollywood movies, including Wrong Turn and Uninvited, which in actuality is a frame-to-frame copy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie is all about a trip undertaken by a group of friends that turns awry.

Sam (Anand Chakaravarthy), Jo (Dhaniska), Arun (Ramssy), Priya (Lakshmi Nair) and Milo (Jagan) are friends, and are introduced to us in a slick manner, almost Shankar’s Boys-like. Sam gets engaged to Jo and Arun to Lakshmi, who is on a project trip to Chennai. The gang decides to go on a trip to, hold on, a temple village located on the TN-Andhra border, which apparently, we are told, is necessary for Lakshmi’s ‘project’. The gang gets a Mercedes B800 and hit the Golden Quadrilateral.

Just as the party is about to reach the village, a girl whom they encounter on the way pleads with them not to go ahead and shoots herself with a revolver. The director, deciding that what you feel is all about what you see, unleashes a visual plethora of old images - rickety, dimly-lit buildings, un-metalled roads and chassis of old cars strewn by the roadside, all in the name of evoking fear. The travellers make it to the village, and find out that something is indeed wrong when the series of hostile events that unfold before them, which at first seem disjointed (typical Hitchcockian), result in a matter of life and death.

And what’s it with murder sagas and flashbacks; are they meant to be synonymous with one another? Can’t we be spared of sepia-tinted scenes that add little value to the storyline, where the characters appear temporarily with their hair dyed in black? Jagan’s brief comedy track borders on the inane and ridiculous and at best inspires only a few stifled gags. On the positive side, a sedentary first-half notwithstanding, Nil…gathers steam in the latter, and is watchable, at least in parts. Selvaganesh’s music score is pleasant on the ears.

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