A lady cop takes interest in the case of a pregnant minor girl and her lover. But there’s a twist in the case, and can she right a wrong, despite pressure from superiors?
Is Bala turning soft? That’s the first question that pops up when Naachiyaar ends. The film has some of the elements that are a constant in a Bala film — characters from an underprivileged background, the ribbing of religion and caste, violence that makes us squirm, throwaway bits of humour that only Bala can come up with... But, surprisingly (and even thankfully), doesn’t have is the cynicism that we have seen in his films so far. In its place, we get sentimentality (which feels like a relief when we consider the indulgent violence and tragedy in Thaarai Thappattai). In fact, this is as close to a feel-good film we can get from this director.
When we first see Naachiyaar (Jyotika), a senior cop who is either angry or empathetic, she is all set to go on vacation. Instead, she goes after men who are taking a pregnant minor, Arasi (Ivana), somewhere by force. Meanwhile, Kaathu (GV Prakash), the guy who had allegedly raped her is nabbed, but the girl informs Naachiyaar that Kaathu is actually her lover. But the judge orders the boy to be sent to a juvenile home. Naachiyaar, who develops a soft corner for the girl, takes her home, but even as Arasi delivers the child, the cop comes across information that complicates matters.
While the first half of Naachiyaar, after the characters are established, unfolds mainly as a flashback, giving us the romance between Kaathu and Arasi, the second half progresses as a whodunit. But the investigation, like much of the film, is less compelling. Even though Bala wants to show his Naachiyaar as a ruthless cop, perhaps because it is Jyotika playing the role, he presents this character in soft focus. And, unlike in his previous films, there is no strong antagonist for her to square off against, which robs the character of strength and the film of drama. Plus, we never really get why this cop gets so involved in this case. There is a passing mention that she is also a mother to a girl, but is that all to it?
The onus to engage us thus falls on the actors. While GV Prakash (he looks the part, though the emotions are not as convincing) and Ivana perform well to earn our sympathy for their beleaguered characters, Jyotika gives us a star turn that is let down by the writing. Rockline Venkatesh, as Feroz, a senior cop who has gone through the grind and has come to the realisation that the system cannot be won over, is effective.
In the end, we are left with the niggling feeling that Bala has failed to fully develop the Raju Karunakaran’s core story. The film, despite its short running time of 100 minutes, feels stretched in places (especially the romantic track) without really making any points, and it would have been more effective as a short film. Towards the end, the director, too, seems to realise this and gives us statements that highlight social inequality (like, how a few ants will die when an elephant walks), but with very little conviction.