The law may be an ass, but that’s irrelevant when those tasked to uphold it feel no compunction to do so. Based in part on a true story, Interrogation shows through the eyes of the disenfranchised what can happen when basic freedoms become the plaything of the unscrupulous.

Vetrimaaran’s film certainly doesn’t spare the rod when demonstrating the lengths local police officers will go to in order to clear up crime figures and please influential superiors. The unfortunate innocents dragged into this ordeal are a trio of Tamil labourers living in India. They moved for a better life, and are determined to stay until they can return home success stories. Sleeping rough in a park to conserve money, their unofficial leader is Prandi (Dinesh Ravi), a local convenience kiosk employee. Like his friends, he still speaks Tamil, though he can understand the native language.

Their problems begin when a group of armed Tamils rob a regional big-shot. The police don’t much care who committed the crime, they just need to present someone. Rounding up a bunch of powerless labourers and forcing a confession seems the easiest way to manage it. Except Prandi and his friends won’t bow, despite eye-watering treatment. Interrogation is at its very best when these harmless individuals are subjected to a series of vicious beatings. The camera watches on passively as Prandi is hit within an inch of consciousness in a scene that stretches out for an eternity. Knowing that if he buckles, his friends get hurt, he stands up to the pain until his back has welts carved across it.

It’s a triumphant moment of resilience that ultimately counts for little. This is the true part. A fourth friend, Kumar, is included in the beatings, suffering along with the rest of them as teeth are stamped, the soles of feet beaten and the confused Tamil’s left to rot in a dark room. Supposition follows as M. Chandra Kumar tries to work out what happened to his friends. In this version, based on his own novel Lock-Up, they find themselves dragged into political intrigue by a Tamil police inspector who initially steps in to save them.

There’s a noticeable dip in quality when this switch occurs. The raw and sheer helpless agony of their initial interrogation has personal experience stamped all over it. When the film enters the realm of conspiracy, an artificial sheen is applied. There’s not the same connection as Prandi gets mixed up in machinations between warring political factions all trying to position themselves ahead of an upcoming election.

Vetrimaaran also starts to lose grip of key scenes, bringing in black and white shots and increasing use of slow motion that only highlights the artificial nature of the second half. It’s possible the unlucky trio endured this, but it’s also impossible to say for sure. Closing text brings Interrogation back to the original message, highlighting the number of cases concluded with the help of forced confessions. For people like Prandi, it seems you can’t win if you buck the system and you can’t win if you don’t. Interrogation is at its best when it hammers this home, one blow after another.

Director: Vetrimaaran
Stars: Dinesh Ravi, Samuthira Kani, Murugadas Periyasamy
Runtime: 106 min
Country: India

Film Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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