Film: “Pencil”; Language: Tamil; Director: Mani Nagaraj; Cast: G. V Prakash Kumar, Sri Divya, Shariq Haasan, VTV Ganesh, Urvashi and T.P. Gajendran; Rating: **
Early on, we are told that debutant Mani Nagaraj’s “Pencil” is based on true events. As the film opens, we witness a hand stabbing a neck with a pencil, and from what one can quickly assess, the murder has taken place in a classroom.
About 15 minutes into the film and if you’re a fan of world cinema, it isn’t tough to find out that “Pencil” is heavily inspired by Korean thriller “4th Period Mystery”, and the adaptation is so sloppy that you want to stick a pencil into your own neck.
“Pencil” could have been an excellent edge-of-the-seat campus thriller, provided the makers didn’t try and commercialise it for the masses. Had they stuck to the template (sans a romantic track) that was followed in the original, this could’ve been a path-breaking film.
Sadly, it doesn’t even come close and unlike the original, which establishes its lead characters very convincingly, “Pencil” doesn’t even do half the good job. Sri Divya’s character, for instance, is very crucial in the film. She single-handedly investigates the murder, thanks to the skills she develops by voraciously reading crime novels. The whole episode featuring this character is so beautifully established in the original, that you’re invested in the film when two teenagers investigate a murder of their classmate. In “Pencil”, however, everything looks silly and amateurish.
There are a few sub-plots that don’t make sense till the end. Till the last minute, you expect the story to justify the presence of certain characters that appear and disappear in the film for reasons, I think, even the director can’t explain. Even the portion involving actress Urvashi, which you anticipate will be fun, falls flat.
Among the performances, newbie Shariq Haasan stands out, playing the rich and conniving brat to the tee. The film was supposed to mark composer-turned-actor G.V. Prakash Kumar’s acting debut as it was originally slated to release nearly two years ago. Therefore, it’s understandable why he couldn’t illicit any interest for the viewers in his performance. Sri Divya, too, was a newcomer when she was signed on for the project and falls in the same category.
“Pencil” is the perfect example on how not to adapt a film.