The Perfect Murder – Contemporary Neo Noir from a Filmmaker to Watch out for

Vikkramm Chandirramani’s ‘The Perfect Murder’ has had tremendous success on the film festival circuit. It was screened at the 9th annual Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival held in April this year in New Jersey. It was awarded ‘Best Dramatic Film’ at the NCCC Film and Animation Festival, held in Buffalo, NY earlier this month. The South Europe International Film Festival, held in Valencia, Spain gave the ‘Best Director of a Short Foreign Language Film’ to Vikkramm Chandirramani a couple of weeks back. As I write this, another screening is planned at the 6th Firenzi FilmCorti Festival in Florence, Italy on May 31. We have chosen it as a finalist in our own festival. For an Indian film which is in Hindi with English subtitles, this is astounding success!

Vikkramm Chandirramani says, “Festivals have received my film warmly and I’m grateful. It feels especially nice when people for whom Hindi is an alien language also connect with the film. At the South Europe International Film Festival, they organized a second screening on request from people who had missed watching the first show.”

When you watch ‘The Perfect Murder’ for the first time, minutes into it, you don’t even realize it is a non- English film. The visuals are enough to connect with the film, and the dialogue is superfluous most of the time. It is easy to be sympathetic to the protagonist Kabir, played by Rohan Gandotra, with his presence, his obsessive desire to make it as an artist and the humiliation he suffers from his wife, a rich heiress, depicted so well by Samvedna Suwalka. A little twist later and you’re tempted to switch sides!

“Yes, I tell my actors to look for the positive when they’re playing characters who may be perceived as negative. Everyone in the real world always feel justified doing whatever it is they are doing even when someone else may view them as dark deeds. An actor must avoid judging his or her own character and instead become that person believing in his or her motivations and life goals while the camera rolls.” says the filmmaker.

Unsurprisingly, the reviews of ‘The Perfect Murder’ have been overwhelmingly positive. Vikkramm Chandirramani’s ‘The Perfect Murder’ is an intriguing short film in many ways. It is not a whodunit. It’s not an out-and-out crime thriller with bullets flying and gangsters gnashing their teeth. It’s a drama, which delves into the psyche of a man who has been pushed to the wall and has run out of options. It is reminiscent of noir cinema despite not succumbing to the trappings of the genre, perhaps a contemporary neo-noir effort, if you will. That it is from India is also intriguing. India has seen a dramatic rise in prosperity over the last couple of decades with the urban rich being able to live far better lives than before, with a lot of resources that were elusive earlier now within quick reach. In that context this film is a comment on modern day morality or the lack of it, of instant gratification, of hedonistic desires and the potent combination of money, sex and unstoppable ambition.

“I agree partly with that. These are primal desires which have existed forever. Hedonism and the desire for instant gratification may be more prominent today because of social media but it has existed forever.”

Going beyond that, ‘The Perfect Murder’ is about Karma, a theory that most of India subscribes to. This is the common thread between ‘The Perfect Murder’ and ‘Destiny’, Vikkramm Chandirramani’s last film. ‘Destiny’ was also a much awarded film, winning the ‘Best Foreign Film’ award at the Ridgewood Guild International Film Festival last year. It is a romantic drama comedy which gives a peek into today’s urban young of India who are used to Tinder and other such apps, while still desperately trying to hold on to the values of days gone by. It is as much about narcissism and hedonistic desires as ‘The Perfect Murder’, but not as dark by any stretch of the imagination. It is set in Mumbai and follows a young woman named Tanya who is trying to get to know Derek, a young man her own age. When he turns her down, she doesn’t take it well and plays a series of pranks on him and eventually gets her comeuppance. The ironical twist in the end is sweet and also hints at the role of Karma in our respective lives. ‘Destiny’ too screened at several festivals and received rave reviews. Rarely are short films so effective at holding attention and few shorts travel well.

To quote the director, “I am fortunate that both films have, as you put them, travelled well. ‘Destiny’ was a different genre of course and meant for a different audience. Karma is an underlying theme but then a lot of cinema is about poetic justice.”

Stylistically, the two films are very different, understandably as the genres differ markedly. The performances stand out and hint at a filmmaker who can bring out the best in his actors and with a tight grasp on his craft. This is a filmmaker to watch out for.