Movie Rated

Production House: Trident Arts and Baby Shoe Productions Cast: Sarath Appani, Selvapandian, Rajesh Dev, Vasudha Dialogues: Maniji Music: Arrol Corelli Cinematography: Manoj Paramahamsa, Manikandan, KG Venkatesh Editing: Nikhil Sreekumar Producer: R Ravindran Story: Maniji Direction: Ranga Yali Premiere date: April 23 Story: 

 The story of Auto Shankar refuses to be any other gangster drama for several reasons. Based on the life of Gowri Shankar, one of the most cold-blooded criminals that Chennai has ever seen, the web series is a chilling account of the path that he adopts to wrest control over the underground mafia of the city. From being a petty auto driver who can't meet ends or even buy a glass of milk for his daughter to being the gangster ruling the roost in Chennai with his flourishing drug and flesh-trade to meeting his death in a jail, the series manages to capture the crests and troughs of Auto Shankar's life in haunting detail. The series that begins like any other gangster flick goes onto examine the reason behind Auto Shankar's wild rage and madness. This includes his troubled childhood and incidents through his life, early day gangster-wars that transform him from a regular human to a blood-sucking monster who knows no sense of good and bad, right and wrong. Artistes’ Performances: 

 Sarath Appani, playing the title role in the series is easily its best performer too. The actor not only gets the varied body language of a notorious gangster right but also brings a sense of personality to the part, where his portrayal offers a deep-rooted glimpse into the mind of a criminal. Though he may not resemble the real-life gangster as much in terms of his facial features, it's hard to pick an actor who may have outshined Sarath in the role of Auto Shankar. Swayamsiddha, who plays a prostitute named Chandrika in the series gets a dream of a role and she sinks her teeth into it. The character is unabashedly frank, humble, cunning at different points in the series and Swayamsiddha stays on the same page with her role. Arjun Chidambaram as the twisted cop gets an interesting part and he's successful in mirroring the frustration and risks that every police officer undergoes while dealing with double-edged criminals. Jikki Nair's role as a film actress starts off with a bang but isn't fleshed out well later. Most of the other supporting actors, however, are well cast for their respective parts. Technical merit: Auto Shankar, though not entirely fulfilling in terms of its content, is nevertheless among the best-shot Tamil web series to date, with the theme, locations, backdrops and visuals et al. The visual detailing, the sound-design and several technicalities including the editing contribute to the holistic experience. Direction: Ranga Yali, a filmmaker of international repute, helms the series that's interesting for the most part even if not gripping. The director, despite calling this a fictionalised account of Auto Shankar's life mostly stays true to the details that the gangster had shared with a Tamil journalist prior to his death. The detailing is among the stronger aspects of the movie, but the director tries too hard to make a hero out of Auto Shankar. Ranga barely shows any neutrality in his filmmaking approach and gives an unnecessary aura to Shankar, sometimes glorifying and also appearing to validate the crimes that Shankar commits. The brazen attempt here is to convey that the gangster is a victim of his circumstances. The narrative style of going back and forth between multiple timelines is clearly inspired by the gangster films of Vetri Maran. While one expected a true-to-life story fo a criminal in the series, the director prefers to give a cinematic coating to the series. The depiction of the rise and fall of the gangster, the betrayal by his near and dear, appear like tropes as old as the hills. Sequences involving sexual activity and violence threaten to dominate the actual intent of the story. It's only in the later part that the ten-episode series comes into its own element. The director in the final stretch does a fine job of examining the mental conflicts of Auto Shankar, his insecurities, the modus operandi that sets him apart (including his strategy to hide the dead bodies in the walls, something he was inspired from the film Nooravathu Naal). The nexus between politics, mafia and film industry is adequately established. What gives this series an edge is the drama that plays out in the final (couple of) episodes, where Shankar is reminded of his loyal wife, his broken family, his religious faith and his undying hope to escape death. Dialogues:

 Maniji, the writer adequately captures the lingo of the mafia gangs, cops and goons though one feels the expletives were more indulgent than being the genuine demands of the script. The dialogue is more or less brash and gets more interesting when it attains a philosophical tone in the climactic portions. Cinematography:

 The cinematographers Manoj Paramahamsa, Manikandan and KG Venkatesh achieve a top-notch visual quality to the series with their work. Their terrific coordination with the art-direction team shows and the edgy, grey atmosphere through the series significantly contributes to the slick, final outcome. Music:

 Arrol Corelli's music and background score go overboard in elevating its lead character and is unnecessarily pompous when it could have done with some subtlety. Potent situations in the series often appear wasted when the music score is truly over the top. A better understanding of the music tastes pertaining to the Tamils between the late 80s and early 90s would have helped the composer. Editing:

 The non-linear narrative isn't always a great idea in building up a story. If not done well, it ends up convoluting a simple plot. This is, unfortunately, the case here. The editing and narration through the first half of the series appear rather straightforward and the sudden change of narrative style in the final episodes lend it a jerky quality. The flow isn't as organic and the length, of course, could have been less indulgent. Production standards: In terms of production standards, Auto Shankar has several aspects going in its favour. The backdrops are well-decked up and classy according to the mood of the sequence and the producers seem to have left no stone unturned to provide an enriching cinema-like experience to the viewer. Highlights:

 Lead actor Sarath Appani's performance
The psychological drama in the later portions of the series
The cutting-edge cinematography


Cinematic treatment to a gritty story
Overdose of sex and violence
The unnecessary glorification of its lead character Analysis: Auto Shankar, with all its positives and flaws, still merits a watch for the dubious characterisation of its protagonist Auto Shankar. However, the character graph of the criminal could have been more consistent and the director ought to have taken a neutral approach in ensuring a solid impact. The series is better in its dramatic and emotional segments than the action part. The length of the series feels overdone. Given that the series ends on a promising note and that it's backed by strong detailing and efficient performances, you end up finding more aspects to laud Auto Shankar than to complain about. The icing on the cake: Intermittently engaging gangster drama

Rating: 3 / 5  

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