Convincing performances and smart editing in Trisha's The Road help debutant Arun Vaseegaran stay true to his aims
In a conversation prior to The Road’s release, first-time director Arun Vaseegaran clarified that his film can’t be classified as a female-centric tale. Watching the thriller post its OTT premiere on aha, you understand he was being honest about it. The Road is primarily a well-made film whose protagonist is a woman, only by chance. She is smart, vulnerable at times, and has a mind of her own and you’d want to root for her.
The film is centred on a highway notorious for orchestrated accidents. The protagonist, Meera, a married urban woman, loses her loved ones in one such crime but realises there’s more to it than meets the eye. Meanwhile, the director smartly integrates her present-day tale with a riveting backstory surrounding the antagonist, Maya. By the time you reach the finale, you will have a clear idea of their worlds.
The Road opts for a middle-road approach with its sedate treatment; there are adequate cinematic highs through the emotionally motivated dialogues and twists, which don’t come in the way of its focused storytelling. As a plot, it is fairly straightforward, but it scores big with its detailing and the many layers beneath the characters and their ambitions.
The carefully camouflaged non-linear narrative keeps the viewer absorbed in the proceedings. You know where the film is arriving at, but the director ably blends his research into the sequences and never loses sight of the emotional quotient. The film uses its nearly 150-minute narrative judiciously; the taut editing and Sam CS’ music score make the job easier for Arun Vaseegaran (and the viewer).
Besides Trisha’s Meera, several women get interesting, well-etched characters — there's a banker, an unabashed thug, a village belle with a conscience and a student who seeks to settle scores. While the antagonist’s path is condemnable, you still empathise with him at a certain level — society plays its part in undoing his career, and he’s not entirely wrong about money being a pivotal force in the world.
It’s commendable that a debutant earns the trust of his capable cast — Trisha, Miya George, and Shabeer Kallarakkal — to deliver the goods. After duds like Raangi, Parampadham Vilayattu and Mohini, Trisha finally chooses the right script that capitalises on her stature responsibly. And it’s a dream 2023 for her. The Road is an ideal companion to other star-driven vehicles like Leo and Ponniyin Selvan 2.
Shabeer gets a meaty, well-established character with an intriguing trajectory. Miya George’s screen presence and MS Bhaskar’s assuredness contribute to its authenticity. Santhosh Prathap, Vela Ramamoorthy, and Vivek Prasanna do what’s expected of them. The Road makes for good viewing and Arun Vaseegaran is a welcome find for Tamil cinema.