Naane Varuvean begins well. The film introduces us to an ordinary family living in a hilly town. The family seems picture-perfect — parents living with their twin sons. Impressions, however, can be deceptive. The twin brothers, Prabhu and Kathir, may be identical, but they are diametrically opposites in temperament. While Prabhu is the good one, Kathir is evil.
Kathir gets into trouble for hurting a girl in their neighbourhood and refuses to apologise even when his father beats him to a pulp. Offended by Kathir’s uncompromising insolence, his father ties him to a tree in the backyard and leaves him there the whole night. As if that trauma was not enough for a kid his age, Kathir gets taken by a psychotic killer. His ordeal is far from over. The unnamed killer, played by Selvaraghavan, tortures him in captivity. And when he finally decides to kill him, he cuts Kathir loose and asks him to run so he can indulge in his fantasy of hunting. Kathir outsmarts the killer. As he kills him, Kathir seems to take on the personality of the killer.
Cut to the present day, Prabhu (Dhanush) is living a peaceful life with his beautiful wife and daughter. His life seems so perfect that it makes his co-worker, played by Yogi Babu, jealous. But, everything begins to crumble when Prabhu and his family go on a vacation. The film then makes a sharp left, dumping the whole set-up of an abusive father, childhood trauma, a psychotic killer and a young boy with an onset of dark thoughts without any accountability. We now find ourselves in the middle of a horror movie.
Things get bumpy in Prabhu’s life as his daughter Sathya gets possessed by an unknown spirit. To end her daughter’s suffering, Prabhu needs to reopen his childhood wounds, which puts him again on the path of his long-lost twin, Kathir (Dhanush, again).
Naane Varuvean has huge plot holes. Some of the errors are so glaring it was hard to believe that this film was made by a seasoned filmmaker like Selvaraghavan and not some bumbling amateur. It’s Dhanush’s screen presence and talent that makes this film watchable. The actor plays the dual role with a lot of conviction as he makes even the clumsy and awkward scenes tolerable.
This film pushes our goodwill for Selvaraghavan and Dhanush to the limits as they make one glaring error after another. People get killed with little or no consequences. It seems nobody is bothered when somebody just disappears. Sample this: like Prabhu, Kathir also has a picture-perfect family — a beautiful wife and twin sons. They live a happy life and are popular with their neighbours. But, when Madhuri and one of the twins disappear, nobody in the neighbourhood asks any questions.
When you see Kathir with his family, you wonder what Selva is trying to do here. Is he doing a Dexter? Is this perfect father, and husband image of Kathir a way to camouflage his dark side in plain sight? Sure, it seems like that at first. He goes on a hunt every night, and his wife Madhuri (Elli AvrRam) is okay with it. Maybe, it’s a way to keep his thirst for blood in control.
We see him take down a deer with his bow and arrow with impunity. A few scenes later, he chases and kills three young men, who misbehaved with him earlier in the day. So, he just kills those who insult him in front of his children? Or is there a pattern to it? How does he pick his targets? Is it random or is there a system in place? How fast can Kathir walk? It seems his victims can never outrun him. And what happens to the bodies of his victims?
What’s the philosophy of this film? And what’s the mysterious quality of this story that inspired Selvaraghavan to turn it into a film with an actor of Dhanush’s calibre? This film leaves us with more questions. So much so that we no longer care for what was supposed to be the cliffhanger question that a young kid asks Prabhu in the climax. Neither Selvaraghavan tells nor shows us the story. It’s just full of empty calories and broken promises. This film is shallower than a roadside puddle.
Naane Varuvean was not the reunion of Dhanush and Selvaraghavan we hoped to see. The siblings never failed to work magic on the screen when they both got together to tell a story. Dhanush has made bad movies, and so has Selvaraghavan when they worked with other actors and directors. But, together they seemed formidable. At least till now. They elevated each other’s game and gave us memorable films. Kaadhal Kondein, Pudhupettai and Mayakkam Enna have all gone on to achieve cult status. Sadly, Naane Varuvean won’t join the list of the filmmaker sibling duo’s best films.
Naane Varuvean is streaming on Sun Next and Amazon Prime Video.