Jyotika-starrer Ponmagal Vandhal , Keerthi Suresh-starrer Sani Kaayidham and now, Sai Pallavi’s Gargi, all explore themes of sexual assault and abuse. But what’s more striking is that all these films have extremely unique storytelling and most importantly, they treat the survivors with dignity.
Presented by Suriya and Jyotika’s 2D Entertainment, Gargi is a courtroom drama directed by Gautham Ramachandran and the music is composed by Govind Vasantha. The film released on 15 July in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.
A 60-year-old father of two loving daughters was arrested in a rape case involving a minor. All hell breaks loose and life turns upside down for this lower middle class family who is embroiled in the legal battle. The evidence is strong against the father (RS Sivaji) but so is the eldest daughter Gargi’s (Sai Pallavai) conviction to save him from a fabricated case.
Starting from what seems like a dead end, the film narrates the gripping story through Gargi’s lens. It delves into the aftermath of an accused's arrest and the effect it has on the family, even before guilt is determined- the vile media trials and how it can make or break the further proceedings of a sensitive case like this.
The child abuse and sexual assault is dealt with delicately with such sensitivity and that shows in the writing and in the way the film is made. It creates awareness about so many important things but does not fail to give you a warning.
Gargi asks you not to be solely reliant on anyone or anything. The film teaches you to take life with a pinch of salt.
This simple yet powerful piece of advice even continues until the plot twist at the end which can affect you in multiple ways - dismantle your heart by pulverising the story you believed so far, impress you as a clever ploy to render a one-of-a-kind climax, or best, it can broaden your perspective and urge you to see beyond what’s visible.
Whichever the outcome is, it’s quite unsettling and it will haunt you even long after you are done watching the film.
With applause-worthy dialogues and sporadic comedy that feels organic, the screenplay of Gargi is spot on. However, there are moments that might make one feel that the pace slows down. Does that disengage the audience from the story? Certainly not.
Sai Pallavi takes you on an emotional rollercoaster letting you get a first hand experience of her helplessness due to the societal judgements and the will to muster up the courage against all odds. However, she is not the only star who shines. Saravanan as the survivor’s father and Kaali Venkat as a novice yet shrewd advocate have rendered their careers' best performances.
Talking about best performances, one could not skip to notice S Sudha, a trans actor, who plays the judge presiding over the case. She portrays the role with dignity and tranquility.
But what didn't work quite effectively is the overuse of the violin in the background with slow motion sequences. At times, it does feel like the film was forcing itself to be a melodrama in order to translate the pain. Luckily it wasn’t for long and the film gets back on track with its pace towards the end.
There is a brilliant scene in the film where Saravanan, the survivor's father, breaks down inconsolably explaining that when he tries to embrace his little girl to support her, she sees him as a ‘man’ and not a ‘father’ anymore. This perfectly captures the trauma that the survivors are forced to live with even when they are at a safer place.
Similarly, Gargi undergoes an emotional transformation, but for good, wherein she no longer sees herself only as a ‘daughter’ but also as a ‘woman’. You need to experience the film in order to understand how empathetically Gargi welcomes you to womanhood. And for this, I’m quite certain that director Gautham Ramachandran will earn a special place in everyone’s hearts.
The film is running in cinemas now.