Lens is a 2017 Tamil thriller written and directed by Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan and stars Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan, Anand Sami, Ashwathy Lal and Misha Ghoshal. This film has one of the mot interesting premises I’ve ever heard. One man commands another to watch his suicide live on Skype. Failure to do so would result in the former leaking the internet history of the latter. DAMN!
All I knew about the film before walking into the cinema was that logline. I was intrigued to the highest degree and prepared myself for a super tense and taut thriller. Does the film deliver on its initial promise? Yes and No, in that exact order. The film has an exquisitely fun first act. We have an everyday tech dude having Skype sex with a random woman. We have creepy antagonist guy who tricks the tech guy into thinking he’s another horny girl and lures him into the primary plot of the film. So far, so good.
What begins are a thought proving setup about the dangers of the internet quickly devolves into some ham-fisted commentary about the evils people indulge in over the world wide web.
Watching Lens, to me, feels like an exercise in checking in on your own perversions and nothing else. Not what you and I put out there to the world to seem “normal” in our circles but what we do in dark shady corner of our homes assuming no one is watching us. When left to one’s devices with the added bonus of consequence-free existences, human beings are capable of very dark things. Lens as a film attempts to explore that side of things. My concerns lay with how the film does its exploration.
The film’s intriguing premise sorely lacks character work required to fill it with personality. The film works as a cautionary tale to the most “technologically illiterate”. I’m not going to sit here on a high horse and call myself a tech guru but I would also like to assume that I would have a few fail-safes if I were to indulge in unsavoury activities. Movies have rarely been able to understand the complexities of technology, let alone the real dangers it actually poses to humanity. A randomly named fake account can only keep your activities private to a very small degree if you do not take the most minimal of precautions to use a browser that masks your IP or at the very least turn your Chrome browser to its inbuilt incognito mode. Little things like this bug me as much as fake typing/hacking as portrayed by multiple “tech savvy” films.
Coming back from that extremely distracting tangent, the film suffers from possessing wholly one-dimensional characters. Yes, one needs to the message across while making a socially conscious film but the message coming off the film has been drilled into our collective heads for the longest time. The film Sivaji has an offhanded joke made about this exact phenomenon and that film happened in 2006. So, again, apart from a compelling premise, the film does not have much going for it.
I do not mean to belittle the plight of a person who is unwillingly involved in a scandal via an unlawful breach of privacy, but there are ways to tell this story without being hammy. One of the characters is named so awfully and is written to be so sympathetic that it took me out of the film entirely.
“Good guys” needn’t always be perfect to the extremes and there are better ways of dealing with breach of privacy than locking yourself in a claustrophobic space. This film rubs me the wrong way because, in our so-called modern society, we teach our young ladies that people who commit crimes against them are the ones who need to be ashamed as the ladies themselves aren’t in the wrong.
Conceding to the fact that each and every person deals with grief differently, a film is a work of fiction. One does not need to perpetuate an “old wine in new bottles” version of the age-old perception that women need to hide and feel inadequate when confronted by crimes against them. As a small change, I would have liked this film so much more if she lived her life with her head held high even after a traumatic incident (BECAUSE IT WAS NOT HER FAULT) and was killed because of additional acts of evil the society forced upon her which she could not physically escape from. A variant of the bland societal commentary this film has on offer could have been excessively more impactful.
I do give props to the whole crew of this film for trying something fresh and talking about a topic most people rarely would but all I ask for is some technological literacy and research when one attempts to make a tech-centric film. Because, I swear to God, I could have ripped this film to shreds for some of the idiocy it has going on.