Gautham Ramachandran's Gargi features Sai Pallavi in one of the most stirring performances from a mainstream heroine in recent times.
It is a hard-hitting, unsettling drama about a daughter's fight for justice. The film, which is unarguably the best Tamil film of the year so far, throws the spotlight on a very delicate issue, which is dealt with such unparalleled sensitivity that's rarely seen these days. At a time, when mainstream cinema is all about exaggerated machismo and star power, Gargi comes as a breath of fresh air; it leaves a lasting impact.
Sai Pallavi plays Gargi, a school teacher, who comes from a lower middle-class family. Her father works as a security guard in a nearby housing society, while the mother makes and sells idli batter from home. She has a school-going younger sister. Gargi's life revolves around her family; she's someone with no major desires in life. Her life is turned upside down overnight, when her 60-year-old father is named as an accused in a gang-rape case involving a minor girl. The rest of the story is about Gargi's fight for justice and the challenges she has to face along the way.
Gargi takes a societal standpoint to look at the aftermath a family has to suffer, when one of its members is the prime accused in a rape case. From media sensationalism to facing ostracism, the film shows what it means to be associated with an accused – even though considered innocent until proven guilty – in something as sensitive as a rape case. The film asks us, as a society, to pause and take a minute before we jump to conclusions based on half-baked truth peddled by the media, on most occasions. It is very rare for mainstream Tamil cinema, known to pander to the masses by taking the commercial route, to treat such a subject so delicately, and it's the writing that deserves special praise for handling this story as maturely as possible with a lot of realism.
It's the writing – the razor-sharp dialogues – that makes Gargi such an impactful film. Gautham Ramachandran's treatment of the subject, the visuals – both haunting and poetic – and the whole approach to the rape aspect of the story is proof of his sensibility as a filmmaker. Instead of focusing more on the horror of the incident, he shifts the focus on the drama that follows, and that's what makes the proceedings so gripping and immersive.
This is Sai Pallavi's show all the way. In what's easily her career-best performance, she showcases that she has so much untapped potential. It's a performance that'll move you in ways you can't imagine. It is the conviction to pick this role and to play it with so much care and understanding (of the character's plight) that deserves more respect. I doubt if any other performance from a heroine this year in Tamil cinema can beat this. Another major highlight of the film has to be its casting. To have Kaali Venkat, usually reserved to play comical characters, play a key role of a lawyer is a masterstroke. The rest of the casting, too, is on point. Govind Vasantha's music breathes life into the film and it elevates the mood of each scene. Gargi will go down as one of the most important Tamil films in recent history.