A still from ‘Por’ 

A still from ‘Por’ 
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Bejoy Nambiar’s bilingual Por (Dange in Hindi) is a rollercoaster of a ride, and I don’t mean it just metaphorically. Some of the best theme park rides put your body and mind in a daze as they traverse its highs and lows, with lighting and effects amplifying the experience. While they momentarily offer a sense of excitement, a slight feeling of disorientation hits us once we get back on our feet. In the case of Por though, this feeling overstays its welcome.

Por is the tale of a college fresher Yuva (Kalidas Jayaram) who learns that one of his seniors is Prabhu (Arjun Das), and plans on avenging a childhood trauma caused by the latter. But two people fighting is just going to be… a fight. For it to be a war — given the title — we need more manpower. The film addresses this by introducing a slew of characters, each with their own agendas, issues, histories and hankerings. Apart from the lead men, the film predominantly focuses on fellow student Rishika (Sanchana Natarajan) and activist Gayathri (TJ Bhanu), apart from a slew of secondary and tertiary characters.

It wouldn’t be far-fetched if someone reads a little too much between the lines and compares the world of Por to a post-apocalyptic planet. Rules and regulations don’t matter here, and the college administration or external powers such as the police don’t have any power within this jurisdiction. Even access to illegal substances is easier to get than the college canteen’s ginger tea that Prabhu raves about. It takes a while to get used to this insane world of young adults who vibe more than anything else and that’s natural given that there’s only one short scene showing the students studying in a classroom. They mostly stick to riding ATVs, running shacks, trying an array of intoxicants, indulging in petty squabbles with other gangs, or giving a thesis on psychedelics while being high on drugs.

Por (Tamil)

Director: Bejoy Nambiar

Cast: Arjun Das, Kalidas Jayaram, Sanchana Natarajan, TJ Bhanu

Storyline: A personal rivalry between two students snowballs into something bigger that puts a lot more at stake than what they intend

Runtime: 153 minutes

Considering the obvious final showdown the film bravely teases us with in its very first shot, the plot mildly thickens with a story that does not involve the two lead protagonists. A fellow student who becomes a victim of caste, power and politics is backed by Gayathri, and all the plots converge in the climax.

What works majorly in favour of Por is how technically strong the film is. The colourful frames that are accentuated by some crazy drone shots, some interesting editing patterns, and the neat background scores really work in favour of the film. Speaking of cinematography, the Extraction-like series of shots made to look like a seamless single-take in the climax is also brilliant despite making you wonder if some of the out-of-focus shots in that sequence are accidental or intentional. In fact, the film’s technical prowess almost covers up the underwhelming core idea and mostly disinteresting subplots that are meant to help the story progress. The four lead actors do a fine job, but the same cannot be said about the extended cast; while some of their plots are genuinely not concerning, other characters are painfully uni-dimensional.

There are also some nifty references to the films of the director’s mentor Mani Ratnam. Kalidas’ character Yuva, for example, happens to be the title of the Hindi version of Aayutha Ezhuthu, Mani’s bilingual take on college and politics which also featured an ensemble cast. But unlike Aayutha Ezhuthu which uses the college merely as a backdrop to speak about something bigger and more important, Por keeps the conflict confined within the premises. While that’s not an issue, the fact is that it’s not as intriguing as it aims to be is.

However, Por is not one of those films that can be brushed away by listing it under the ‘all style and no substance’ category; it’s got some fascinating ideas, the performances are quite good and the film looks overtly stylish. But the sub-plots — some unnecessary while many are underdeveloped — don’t come together cohesively, and what we get is a predictable drama that’s all over the place, jarring and at times exhausting. That probably explains the title!

Por is currently running in theatres



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