A moving and powerful film about caste disparities and inequalities

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Nenjuku Needhi movie review: “If all are equal, then who will be the king? One who thinks all are equal” – Similar to this dialogue in the film, Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Nenjukku Needhi is powerful, impactful and thought-provoking. Although Tamil cinema has produced many films recently that address caste disparities and social injustice, this movie hits us hard right from the start. We know exactly what’s going to happen next, but then the writing and directing are so effective that they keep you captivated.

A remake of the Bollywood film Article 15, the film is about an IPS officer investigating a heinous crime that involves the mysterious deaths of two Dalit girls and a missing girl.

Vijayragavan (Udhayanidhi Stalin), an IPS officer, is assigned to a rural part of Tamil Nadu, where caste discrimination and untouchability are still practiced. Although Vijayragahvan has read about discrimination in many books, it is difficult for him to face these issues in real life. As he still grapples with the ideologies of the people around him and tries to educate them, a mysterious case of three missing Dalit girls, who were employed in the local factory, makes his life more miserable. Two are found dead, but the case gets complicated because there is no trace of the third. Who is behind this heinous crime and how Vijayraghavan pushes this case forward despite pressure from his high caste officials forms the rest of the plot.

While the main plot isn’t anything new, Arunraja Kamaraj’s script and the agony the characters go through has us rooting for the film. There is a scene in which Vijayragahvan discusses the caste system and the number of subdivisions within it with his subordinates. Although it makes us laugh, Vijayragahvan’s response would resonate with most viewers. The writing is all the more effective as most of the dialogue deserves applause.

Just when we think things are going too far, the creators justify it with interesting incidents and the setting in which the characters live. Photography (by Dinesh Krishnan) and music are the heroes here. Composer Dhibu Ninan Thomas understood the pulse of the film and elevated the scenes to another level. Udhayanidhi did justice to the role played by Ayushmann Khurrana in the original, and this character feels tailor-made for him.

Only downside, some sequences are predictable and the narration shows a certain lag in the first half. However, the pre-interval block, in which Vijayragahvan enters the station with a notice of “Article 15”, more than makes up for it.

Aari’s character as Kumaran, a Dalit leader and revolutionary, is perfect. However, the creators could have focused more on his character with a backstory because it would have made us sympathize with him. Tanya Ravichandran, who appears as a gender equality activist, and Shivani Rajashekar, as Kurunji, do a good job.

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