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Witness movie review: Rohini Molleti, Shraddha Srinath excel in this partly compelling drama on a pertinent issue

The filmmaker deserves applause for his approach in handling the pertinent issue, but the movie succeeds only partially in terms of connecting with the audience

Witness movie review: Rohini Molleti, Shraddha Srinath excel in this partly compelling drama on a pertinent issue

A poster of Witness

Last Updated: 02.35 PM, Feb 26, 2024


Story: A mother, who struggles to make both ends meet, gets the shock of her life when she learns that her 20-year-old son has lost his life. Upon enquiry, a cop informs her that the boy died after indulging in manual scavenging and that he was under the influence of alcohol. The peeved mother, who is unable to come to terms with the news, gets assistance from a social worker and an architect to take up the case in court to fight against the corrupt system, to ensure that similar harrowing experiences do not occur. But does she possess the will power for the same?


Review: It is not often that we come across films that touch upon the murky realities pertaining to manual scavenging. Despite the staggering number of deaths and disturbing caste politics associated with the abhorrent job, many serious filmmakers haven't bothered to narrate the ordeal of people indulging in the profession through movies.

Deepak's Witness is a poignant tale of a section of underprivileged people who lead lives in the outskirts of Chennai facing oppression of various kinds.

Rohini and Shraddha in a still from the film
Rohini and Shraddha in a still from the film

The protagonist here is Indrani (Rohini Molleti), who does a menial job for the city corporation, finding it tough to make ends meet.  

She has pinned all her hopes on her 20-year-old son, but fate had other plans. One day, she gets to know from her neighbour that her son has met with an accident. A panicked Indrani rushes to the police station only to learn that the boy has lost his life.

The shattered mother, who looks at her son's body in disbelief, receives another blow when she learns that the latter has been into manual scavenging. As if this isn't enough, the police report which confirms his alcohol intoxication leaves her rattled.

Indrani decides to seek legal justice for her son with the help of Parvathi (Shraddha Srinath), an architect, a social worker and a lawyer to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future. But can she withstand the manipulative behaviour of those who are indirectly responsible for her son's death?

The prime highlight of the film is its unabashed portrayal of the politics behind manual scavenging. The simple, yet dubious reasons addressed in the movie behind the lackadaisical response of concerned authorities towards prohibiting the obnoxious profession by all means is an eye-opener and leaves you squirm.

A poster of the film
A poster of the film

Deepak deserves applause for his sincere approach in handling the pertinent issue and roping in actors who have come up with commendable performances. Rohini steals the show with her nuanced expressions and impressive body language that her character demands.

Shraddha Srinath depicts the agony of a young, ambitious woman who frequently receives brickbats for being herself. The likes of Vinod Sagar, Tamilarasan and Shanmugarajan among others excel in their respective roles offered to them. Deepak himself has cranked the camera, and it has helped the film attain the required mood it deserves.

Having said that, the movie succeeds only partially when it comes to connecting emotionally with the audience. We know the makers have taken up an important topic and has come up with a story which addresses the various perils and cruel discrimination involved in manual scavenging, but the screenplay misses the magic when it comes to offering a wholesome experience.

We feel for the characters and their problems, but the lack of fine-tuning is evident in a few crucial sequences which make the film nothing more than a decent watch. The narration veers into documentary mode after a point, which stops the movie from becoming an absolutely compelling watch.

Verdict: Witness does have its moments, elevated by sincere performances and acts as a genuine mirror to the numerous woes related to manual scavenging. However, the credibility with which the story is presented is marred by tepid execution.

Witness is streaming on SonyLIV.

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