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Gargi review: Sai Pallavi gives career-best performance in this unsettling drama about a daughter's fight for justice

Release Date: 15 Jul 2022 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 20min

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Haricharan Pudipeddi

At a time when mainstream cinema is all about exaggerated machismo and star power, the drama comes as a breath of fresh air.

Gautham Ramachandran’s Gargi (2022), which sees Sai Pallavi give one of the most affecting performances from a mainstream heroine in recent times, 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 handled with unparalleled sensitivity. At a time when mainstream cinema is all about exaggerated machismo and star power, Gargi comes as a breath of fresh air, leaving 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 and 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 looks at what a family has to endure when one of its members is the prime accused in a rape case. From the media sensationalism to facing social 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 a conclusion based on half-baked information 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 and the razor-sharp dialogues that make Gargi such an impactful film. Gautham Ramachandran’s treatment of the subject, the haunting and poetic visuals and the whole approach to the rape aspect of the story are proof of his sensibility as a filmmaker. Instead of focusing on the horror of the incident, he shifts the gaze to 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 shows that she has so much untapped potential. It’s a performance that will 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 an actress this year in Tamil cinema can beat this. Another major highlight of the film has to be its casting. To have Kaali Venkat, who usually plays comical characters, essay 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 quite literally elevates the mood of each scene 

Gargi will go down as one of the most important Tamil films in recent history. 


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