I can’t believe I missed this movie earlier. But having just watched it, I thought it would be a great first Tamil movie review to write.

Dhruvangal Pathinaaru (D-16) is 22 year old director Karthick Naren’s debut film and it is made with such assurance that it firmly establishes Naren as a force to be reckoned with. Essentially a police procedural, it is the story of a retired police inspector Deepak who is asked to revisit his last unsolved case by a man interested in the case. Told partly in flashbacks, the movie follows two murders and a missing girl, all crimes seemingly committed by a serial killer.

This is completely a director’s film – the visuals, the understated acting, the screenplay, it is beautiful to see a cohesive vision. Naren brings a fresh voice to Tamil cinema, right from the visuals of the opening title sequence to the way they show a murder investigation against the backdrop of normal life. I loved that aspect as a storytelling technique – there’s a gardener watering plants, someone having tea, neighbours talking, life moves on in the background while the police investigate a spate of mysterious crimes. Subtle and realistic, one of my favourite exchanges in the movie is when Deepak reprimands a new officer for not sharing the news of a crime immediately, to which he is told that the person who called to report the crime sounded too happy to be taken seriously.

Rahman as the intelligent and dedicated inspector Deepak gives one of his best performances. Newcomer Prakash Vijayaraghavan as the Watson to Deepak’s Holmes successfully leads a relatively new cast.

Of course it has to be said that the ending is a bit unnecessarily complicated, with too many twists and revelations. The movie has so many positive points that even with a simple revelation, it would have been just as impactful. However, these are forgivable in light of the film’s other successes.

I’m happy to know that D-16 is a commercial success, hopefully informing filmmakers that audiences can appreciate something not formulaic.