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Review Malayalam

Nizhal review: This moody atmospheric thriller fails to capitalize on a promising start

Release Date: 09 Apr 2021 / Rated: U / 02hr 15min


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Suyog Zore

While the psychological thrller starring Kunchako Boban and Nayanthara has an interesting premise, S Sanjeev's script fails to develop it effectively.

Kunchako Boban has had two back-to-back releases on OTT platforms with Nayattu coming out on Netflix on 9 May and Nizhal arriving on Amazon Prime Video on 11 May.

Nizhal opens with a road accident. A speeding car crashes into a motorbike. We learn later that the car was driven by John Baby (Kunchako Boban). The accident leaves John Baby, who is the district magistrate, with a broken nose. He has to wear a mask to protect his nose after surgery.

It is not just the mask that John has to bear with; he also suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that makes him hallucinate about thunderstorms. He also dislikes the attention his mask gets from people.

Clinical psychologist Shalini (Divya Prabha), whom John is consulting for his hallucinations, tells him about school student Nithin (Izin Hash), who narrated a disturbing story in class, which seemed all too real. John decides to find out the truth behind Nithin's story with the help of the kid's overprotective mother Sharmila (Nayanthara). The rest of the film centres on them trying to find answers to these all-too-real stories.

The film marks the directorial debut of award-winning editor Appu N Bhattathiri and he does a good job of building up the tension till the first big interval twist.

Nizhal starts out promisingly with John trying to come to terms with his post-trauma hallucinations. S Sanjeev's screenplay moves slowly, taking its own time to get us acquainted with John's world.

The first half is used as build-up to the mystery of the boy's stories. The film hints at a possible connection between John's hallucinations and Nithin's stories. But the moody atmospheric thriller fails to capitalize on the promising start.

When a film begins with an accident, you tend to think the accident will have some payoff later in the movie. Nothing of the sort happens here. It is soon forgotten. Even John's mask doesn't have any purpose apart from generating some funny looks from his friends. When you make your lead actor wear a weird mask for half the length of the film, you should have a good reason for it. Unfortunately, it appears that the writer and director decided to use it simply as a novelty.

On paper, Nizhal has an interesting story. But S Sanjeev's screenplay fails to develop it effectively and the film loses steam in the second half. There are some unpredictable moments in the film, but they don't leave a strong emotional impact. The pre-climax twist does, however, work in the film's favour. While it might be a downer for those looking for a mind-bending twist, it worked for me. There is also a minor and completely unnecessary subplot about a police officer tasked to tail John. He serves no purpose in the film apart from providing some comic relief. They could have easily done away with his scenes and saved about six minutes.

Boban delivers a convincing performance as a calm district magistrate who is struggling with hallucinations. Nayanthara as Sharmila doesn't have much to do. Sharmila is a strong and independent woman who runs a VFX company and that is probably why the makers decided to go with Nayanthara, known for playing strong woman characters in Tamil cinema.

Child artiste Izin Hash delivers an impressive performance. He looks quite natural on the screen. Overall, Nizhal is a decent thriller that has its moments but fails to capitalize on its intriguing premise.

Nizhal is now available on Amazon Prime Video.

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