The lifeline of the film is director Balaji K Kumar’s masterful usage of the technicalities to enrich the viewing experience
There are Fridays, there are films, there’s commerce but one seldom notices a film that’s not designed to impress but express. Vidiyum Munn maker Balaji K Kumar, with Hatya, choses a familiar murder mystery and smartly integrates it with his storytelling sensibilities and technical finesse. Within a familiar mainstream genre and a compact plot, the directorial voice too stands out.
The story, based on true incidents, revolves around a model Laila’s murder and how two officers - Vinayak and Sandhya - decipher the mystery behind it. The tone of the film is unique, for it is told through Laila’s eyes and how her world gradually falls apart before her death. The bits and pieces of her story are stitched together during the investigation and there’s a fine attempt to decode the victim and the culprit’s psyche.
The reimagined Paartha Nyabhagam sets the tone for the film and you look at the lyrics in a new light, with Laila repenting her lost youth. It helps us empathise with the victim and sense destiny wasn’t kind to her. Girishh Gopalakrishnan’s music, just like the film’s aesthetics, isn’t designed to create urgency. Beneath its thriller format, there’s a philosophical side to the storytelling.
Both the officers Vinayak and Sandhya have a traumatic past and there’s enough context to justify why they put their heart and life into their work - in many instances, it is an escape route from their difficulties. Their cool, composed characterisation lends a new appeal to the story and the music complements their style, never trying to impose the tension upon a viewer.
The potential suspects are all introduced within the first hour and there’s enough breathing space for the viewer to absorb the complexities in the setup. There’s a moody boyfriend, an abusive photographer, a specially abled neighbour, a perverted modelling agent and the director examines their motives behind the murder in all possible dimensions.
The identities of the characters are established quickly and there’s little time wasted. The screenplay is crisp but there’s a leisurely vibe in the treatment; regardless of the intent, the ambience grows on you. The allure of its aesthetics is a true reflection of Balaji K Kumar’s taste for his craft and understanding of the medium.
Beyond the detailing with the cinematography, colour grading and the production design, Balaji K Kumar doesn’t let the storytelling take a backseat. Just when the formalities are wrapped in the climax, he also talks of the bonhomie among the bereaved souls. These are moments where you realise that the director isn’t trying to sell the film but is keen on designing an experience and provokes a thought.
Vijay Antony, more than a performer or an artiste, is a good student of cinema and knows when to surrender to a filmmaker. Meenakshii Chaudhary is perfectly cast as the angelic model whose life is brutally cut short. Ritika Singh plays her part well though it needed a stronger identity. Radikaa Sarathkumar, Murli Sharma, Siddhartha Shankar, Kishore Kumar, John Vijay, Arjun Chidambaram and Samkit Bohra do justice to their segments.
Hatya may not be a film for everyone but with its focused storytelling, distinct aesthetic appeal, it makes for an immersive big-screen experience.