SYNOPSIS: A porn addict is threatened by a hacker, who orders the guy to witness him commit suicide online.
MOVIE REVIEW: Given that we had witnessed the #SuchiLeaks scandal just a couple of months ago, Lens feels very relevant. With the internet making voyeurism a habit (forget cyber sex chats, which is portrayed in this film, isn’t following people on Twitter or Instagram, too, a form of voyeurism?), the film wants us to pause for a minute and look at the implications — the effect this has on the lives of the individuals concerned, especially when the line between what is private and public is shrinking day by day. And in this world, it tells us, even an ordinary man — well-educated, with a steady job and a family — could be a voyeur wrecking havoc on the lives of others, even unintentionally.
Much of the film unfolds as an online video conversation between Aravind (Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan) and Yohan (Anand Sami). The former is an IT professional and we are introduced to him even as he is in the middle of a sexual chat session with a woman online. He ‘friends’ a mysterious girl called Nikky online and starts chatting with her, but soon, he is in for a shock as Nikki turns out to be a man, Yohan. And Yohan orders Aravind to witness him commit suicide online, and threatens him by saying that he will upload the video of Aravind’s late-night activities for the whole world to see.
What makes Lens noteworthy is that it tries to convey its message in thrilling fashion in the form of a new-age revenge story. It feels experimental because of its risqué subject and setting, but, at heart, this is a conventional film. The first half makes us question why things are happening and what the motivations of its characters are, reaching the intermission at a tense moment. And in the second half, we get the tragic flashback, which shifts our view towards the characters. In short, the plot structure of most vigilante thrillers.
Jayaprakash makes the film adequately creepy, and with help from his cinematographer SR Kathir, he gives us striking images and leaves us feeling trapped, just like his protagonist. The cast is convincing, though it is Anand Sai who stands out — partly because of the nature of his role and partly because he conveys the anger and the sadness of his character very well.
That said, the film isn’t subtle, even though it takes care to not make the visuals vulgar. There are also certain things that very literal — like a tragic character being named Angel, and the Salman Khan mask that Aravind uses. The background score, too, keeps telling us how we should be feeling rather than letting us feel those emotions from what we are seeing onscreen. But the biggest issue with the film is the lack of lip-sync. Agreed this has been shot in three languages (Tamil, Malayalam and English), but for this Tamil release, the English lines are dubbed in Tamil. And in a film that wants the viewer to get into the shoes of its characters and experience their trauma, this dubbing proves counterproductive.