Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Vinodhini, Ramya Subramanian, Sanchana Natarajan, Anish Kuruvilla and others
A woman, all alone, is stalked by a heavy breathing, unhinged person. Stalked and then decapitated, the woman’s murder grabs headlines. There are a lot of questions raised. Why her? What did the killer get out of turning the woman into a headless body? And worse, who is his next victim?
Game Over is a psychological thriller that Tamil cinema isn’t used to – there’s a woman at the forefront with three other women as supporting characters while the men flit in and out of the screen as the occasional important figure.
Taapsee plays Swapna, a game designer who works from home. She plays Pacman all day while working and seems to be on the edge most of the time. Darkness is something she is afraid of and ensures there’s light around, always. Her help Kalamma (played by Vinodhini) is her only confidante who knows Swapna in and out. The trauma of a sexual assault that took place on New Year’s Eve comes alive exactly a year later, with Swapna being riddled with panic attacks and battling her PTSD. In the midst of her getting out of her fear of the dark, there is an unnamed entity after her. As fear looms high in the air, the film takes shape in the form of a game. A game of survival. Does Swapna come out of it alive forms the crux of the story.
The unnamed stalker and the terror he creates exudes a wicked anticipation throughout the film, where you are left just as unnerved as the characters in the film. More than focusing on the film’s plot, hooks and content, it’s the experience of watching it that adds to its charm. Whatever ends that are left loose were deliberately done so as to reinforce the experience that leaves the audience with a lasting impression.
Considering it features women and is also written by a woman, it’s safe to assume that Game Over is allegorical to women fighting back, be it patriarchy, sexual trauma, a physical ailment or anything that would otherwise bring her down. There’s a particular scene in the film when Taapsee is talking to Kalamma while being in the kitchen, hiding from the killer. She is afraid beyond words but musters the courage to say, “Yes, death might come and it’s okay. But we will not go down fighting without making a noise.” The empowerment in her voice, while being bound to her wheelchair and also handicapped by her fears, is symbolic to the thousands of voices of women who refuse to go down without a fight, fighting for their right to survival and rising above. Other little notes, too, add on to the empowering theme of the film including, “Fight like a girl!” emboldened on a greeting card and the fact that there are zero stereotypes or anything remotely misogynistic propagated in a woman-led film.
The film has its share of flaws, but the execution of the story outweighs all the demerits. The slightly slow-paced first half is made up for in the second half with a racy thriller. Director Ashwin Saravanan, whose previous outing was Maya, weaves magic with his lead star and his story. Writer Kavya Ramkumar, too, deserves much of the applause for bringing out the female perspective with dignity and raising important questions related to a woman’s agency over her body, her thought process and psyche. It’s a testament to the fact that cinema requires more female voices and this film does justice to that.
The fact that the film has no songs is a huge plus, with the background score properly paced and placed based on the scene and emotions courtesy Ron Ethan Yohann.
Films like these, especially in Tamil cinema, don’t happen too often, hence there’s a need to celebrate such an attempt. The scenes are gory and unsettling, sometimes even difficult to watch, but the film is as fresh as can be with a cast who do justice to the story that heavily relies on their body language and acting. Taapsee proves yet again that leading a film all by herself is no easy task but she does it with such sophistication, one cannot help but admire the emotions and the difficulties of her character beautifully brought out. It’s a commendable move to go for films that are unlike what a mainstream actress would choose, but it’s this quality that pretty much sets Taapsee apart from the rest.