Nivin Pauly’s Tamil debut Richie explores beyond the popular hero-centric Kollywood cinema to tell an impressive tale of a young man, who leads a thug life – a metamorphosis he underwent after a harrowing childhood experience.
The film, a neatly - crafted attempt at the film noir genre, is undoubtedly an extension of the successful experiments that Tamil cinema has been witnessing of late. Gautham Ramachandran proves to be a brilliant filmmaker with his choice of the subject, a rework of 2014 Kannada film Ulidavaru Kandanthe while Nivin deserves due credit for picking a character that is so different from the typical merry-go-round guys he usually plays in Malayalam movies.
Richie is a brilliant piece of cinema on account of the plot, narrative and performance though it is to be seen how much of it will appeal to the sort of audience who must be expecting an action flick packed with all elements of a popular cinema.
On hindsight, Richie has a usual plot involving some elements of crime, vengeance, emotions, romance and unavoidable occasions of misunderstanding. However, the non-linear narrative that uses memories explored by a young woman journalist gives it the stature of an experimental piece of on-screen fiction.
Though the film fails to have a rapport with the audience in the first half, with long spells of background information and build-up of Richie, “the professional rowdy”, it gains firm grip on the plot and thus the audience in the second half where the true character of Richie and his relation with those around him unravel.
Richie is the son of a parish priest, Sahayam (Prakash Raj). An incident in his childhood lands him in a juvenile home which transforms him into rogue. Back in his coastal village of Thoothukudy, he works for Issac, a local gangster-like figure.
In parallel, the director focuses on the life of a boat mechanic (Natarajan Subramanian) who had to flee his village following the murder of a close friend of him. The film progresses through the lives of the duo and makes them meet for an unexpected climax after a neatly-knit sequence involving several characters.
A precious stone that one of the characters, Peter, got from the depths of the sea plays a key character, connecting characters and sequences together. It also gives the film a mythical tint and finally becomes a metaphor for the secret that Richie held close to his heart throughout his life.
Richie is undoubtedly one of the best characters that have come Nivin’s ways, and he has played the troubled youth in a matured way. However, one could still doubt if all the emotional depths of the character was translated onto the screen.
Pandi Kumar’s stunning frames and Athul Vijay’s neat cuts make the film a visual treat. Ajaneesh Lokanath has left a classy touch on the musical notes, which are perfectly in sync with the tone of the film.