Consider this scene in the recently released 8 Thottakkal.
Meera, an intern reporting local news for a TV channel, is called in by her manager. He is not impressed. Meera is upset now, desperate for him to change his opinion, she really needs this job. She does not want to leave the city and go back home, she may be forced to get married. She struggles with the every day problems of an every woman. She thinks of something then. There is a police officer she knows, Sathya, who confided in her. His gun was stolen while travelling in a bus. It could be with anyone, and he is on a deadline to get it back. Sathya soon finds this information being dissected by news anchors. Ballooning with righteous anger, he finds Meera at her office. How could you do this? I trusted you! Meera is apologetic at first, then defensive. What do you know about me? You don’t even know what kind of person I am, and you trusted me, she shouts back.
This scene reminded me of Kayalvizhi from Jigarthanda. She does something against the stereotype of her character – a petty act of revenge on the male lead – and she says she is not a Tamil cinema heroine to play nice all the time. Our female leads are usually angels. They befriend children, make cute faces at babies, take care of old people, respect their parents, they are the purest shade of white. Meera isn’t a bad person, just normal; she made a choice during a difficult time.
8 Thottakkal follows the life of a boy who is framed for a murder he had no part in. He spends his childhood in a juvenile detention center. I started worrying the movie was veering off into Bala’s universe, especially when an older man offers this boy a laddoo and insists on making small talk. But this scene leaves a sweet aftertaste – the man is truly trying to help. This boy is Sathya, who later becomes the most ineffectual police officer you might have ever seen. He is nervous, never fully present, scared and hesitant. There is another man Moorthy, somewhat similar in temperament, but one who is tired of being knocked about, he can never seem to catch a break.
Characters meet each other intentionally or coincidentally, their actions and words have consequences. The movie does not attempt to lecture us on morality and ethics, it is content to allow us to come to our own conclusions. The story is centered around the 8 bullets referenced in the title, but includes perpetrators, victims and bystanders.
There is the matter of one terrible song which looked like a pantomime gone wrong. If you are watching this movie at home, you have the luxury of fast-forwarding it. The movie feels long, but there are many scenes that leave you feeling satisfied, as if you were being rewarded for your patience.