There’s a scene in Devil where Hema (Poorna) and Alex (Vidharth) get married, and the sequence intercuts with that of a beggar outside the church receiving alms. It leaves you wondering who’s the giver and the receiver in the new relationship, but the rest of the film is so basic that it feels blasphemous to read much between the lines. The adage might say that the devil might be in the details, but ironically, the eponymous film does not like to get into specifics, and what we get is a wafer-thin plot that takes a course of its own.
In Devil, Hema suffers from unrequited love from her newly married husband, who, unknown to her, is having an affair with his employee Sophia (Subhashree). Before she comes to terms with it, an accidental meeting introduces her to Roshan (Thrigun), a handsome youngster who initially finds a mother in Hema, but that changes soon. As the film progresses, it leaves you wondering what will come crashing down first — Alex’s double life, Hema’s hold over her chastity, or the audience’s tolerance to randomness unfolding in all its glory.
On the surface level, the story of Devil has enough meat only for a short film; it’s about a woman stuck between a husband indulging in adultery and a stranger ready to put the whole world below her feet. But the makers unnecessarily drag it so much to make its otherwise short runtime of less than two hours feel very much more than that. The climax involves thriller and horror elements and fascinatingly, a few moments of brilliance there bring in the much-needed ingenuity and intrigue the film lacked from the beginning. But Devil, like with all the tropes it plays with, never really sinks its fangs into the interesting concepts too.
Cast: Poorna, Vidharth, Thrigun, Subhashree
Storyline: A newly married couple’s life goes for a toss when strangers walk into it
Deep within, the problems only worsen. The film repeatedly reiterates how Hema also doubles as a motherly figure to both men. Talk about the Oedipus complex with a twist! While Roshan’s character is vocal about “seeing a mother” in Hema, it’s the in-laws of Hema who “ask” her to be in the place of a mother for Alex. For a film about a woman, the stands it takes are not just regressive but also misogynistic. While Sophia gets reduced to an opportunistic vamp, Hema is expected to forgive her husband’s infidelity, only for Alex to charge at her with a butcher’s knife when he assumes she’s up to something with Roshan. There’s even a scene where Hema compares herself with everything from a fish in the sea to a brittle glassware. It’s not objectification when women do it to themselves right?
Adding to this mess is a cameo from Mysskin, who symbolises the lord himself. There are tons of Christian imagery, making Devil look like a knock-off of yesteryear Hollywood classics. They also subject you to lines like “en paavatha naan dhaan sumakanum”. I was even worried that the out-of-focus portrait on a wall would end up being Mysskin, but thankfully, it was Jesus. But, with the lines so blurred, it would not have been a surprise. Speaking of Mysskin, who has also made his debut as a composer with this film, there are obviously strong inspirations from his favourite Ilaiyaraaja, but the background score is just slightly better than the mediocre songs. While we are at it, there’s a needless song that feels like an extension of once famous Mysskin’s Yellow Saree phase.
Director Aathityaa’s debut directorial, Savarakkathi, is a wacky dark comedy. Its stakes were low, and Poorna, amid filmmakers Ram and Mysskin who appeared in never-before-seen avatars, was fantastic in the film. Devil, in comparison, surprisingly feels extremely amateurish and shoddy. Poorna is one of those rare performers who has not gotten the spotlight she deserves. She is fantastic in Devil, but the film does not offer her much, despite being centred around her. Mysskin’s Pisasu is a revelation in the Tamil horror films space, and Devil could have been another such attempt had it taken the right turns. But it suffers from an identity crisis as it fails to pick a particular route and, in the end, gets reduced to a thriller that offers no thrills. The film literally ends with a ‘let there be light’ moment, and ironically, Devil left us thanking for the same when the lights in the theatre got switched back on.
Devil is currently running in theatres