Richie is another remake in Tamil, this time it’s Rakshit Shetty’s Kannada film Ulidavaru Kandanthe that gets the Kollywood treatment. Directed by Gautham Ramachandran, this is a neo-noir crime film, set in a small fishing village. The film has been in the news for being Malayalam superstar Nivin Pauly’s first (proper) Tamil film. Nivin is very popular in Tamil Nadu as his iconic love story Premam ran for 257 days in Chennai theatres and later, his Malayalam films too found a market in the state.
With Richie, Nivin Pauly has dared to take the road less travelled, by doing an off-beat Tamil film without any commercial trappings. The basic premise follows the Rashamon Effect (named after Akira Kursova’s cult classic Rashamon (1950), where an incident is given different interpretations as viewed by the persons involved). The director seems also to be influenced by the Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood schools of filmmaking.
The film begins with an investigative journalist, Megha (Shraddha Srinath), trying to convince her editor to give her a bigger spread in the newspaper to report the sensational murders that have taken place in the coastal village of Manapad, near Thoothukudi. She has travelled to the village to piece together the evidence of the crime, all of which leads her to Richie (Nivin Pauly), who different people have differing perspectives of.
Richie, as an adolescent, had stabbed a boy to death and served a seven-year jail term. Now out of jail, he makes a living as the henchman of a boat owner and local businessman, Annachi (GK Reddy). Richie’s father (Prakash Raj) is a priest at the local parish; that he wasn’t supported by his father and best friend during a critical juncture in his life continues to irk Richie.
Some see Richie as a kind-hearted friend, others loathe him. All of them are victims of circumstances. The romance between a fisher-woman Philomena (Lakshmipriya) and a boat mechanic Selva (Natty Natraj), the story of Raghu (Raj Bharath) — a childhood friend of Richie’s, are all interwoven into the plot.
Nivin Pauly makes a decent Kollywood debut with his swagger and screen presence, though his Tamil dialogue delivery needs to improve. The director narrates the film as different chapters, like in a Tarantino film. One of the plus points is the music of Ajaneesh Loknath, retained from the original Kannada version, which is in sync with the narration (though at times it is a bit loud). Richie has a runtime of only 110 minutes, but looks stretched — especially the pre-interval section where Nivin Pauly appears only for 15 minutes. It is the second half of the film which tries to connect all the dots. The motives of all the characters are half-baked and there are some unanswered questions. For a rural local, Richie inexplicably speaks in perfect English at times. For audiences fed a steady diet of commercial cinema, this film — devoid of the massy entertainment elements — may come across as a dark and dreary.