“Ameerin Aadhi Baghavan”… Heaven help us!

An acquaintance, a close associate of K Balachander, has this way of scoffing at today’s filmmakers. “Look at what a long and varied career director saar had,” he’ll say, “and look at these directors now, who begin to falter in just their second or third films.” Make that “fourth film,” and he could be talking about Ameer – for Aadhi Bhagavan is a baffling embarrassment. How the creator of Paruthi Veeran could have ended up with something so incoherent is something only the director can answer, while we, the audience, can point to the usual suspects – like a sentimental moment that segues to a song voiced by Udit Narayan and staged in a desert, where hero and heroine pound their feet into the sand, as if determined to reshape the surrounding dunes. My favourite surreal moment, in a sea of surreal moments, is a shootout on a terrace, after the onset of which the heroine, standing below, screams, “Enna nadakkudhu anga?” We are left asking the same question.

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Ameer, in what looks like a bid to rip off the “serious filmmaker” tag from his resume, opts for a story about a hero (‘Jayam’ Ravi) with a handlebar moustache who’s clearly a villain. He cons people. He extorts money from a crooked partner with the help of a bomb-embedded stuffed toy. He even guns down his sister’s boyfriend, simply because he doesn’t approve of the guy. And yet, we’re supposed to weep for him. His mommy (Sudha Chandran, who vanishes mysteriously after a couple of scenes) won’t speak to him – like her counterparts in Deewar and Vaastav, she doesn’t approve of his evil ways. And a solitary tear courses down his cheek when his girlfriend Karishma (Neetu Chandra, who establishes her Tamil-film-heroine worthiness by shepherding children across a street) wheels in a tray with a birthday cake. He’s that sensitive, apparently. Tell that to the sister’s boyfriend who ended up with a bullet through his brain.

As if this schizophrenia weren’t enough, we get a second hero-avatar, Bhagavan (‘Jayam’ Ravi again), who’s possibly the most extreme metrosexual on the planet. He seems to like women, and yet, he flounces around in effeminate garb, painting his nails during business meetings. And we land squarely in a demented variation on the Don/Billa switcheroo plot, where we know a woman is bad because she smokes and where a hapless extra is bludgeoned to death with a telephone receiver. The whole dreary mess reminded me, repeatedly, of Aalavandhan, which, for all its excesses, pulled off a similarly outrageous double-role story with some semblance of wit and style. ‘Jayam’ Ravi gets himself beaten up in a masochistic scene whose gore harks back to Kamal Haasan’s love for spitting out blood on screen, but that cannot conceal the sad reality that he just doesn’t have the presence for this sort of showboating. This is how you separate the men from the boys.

Copyright ©2013 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

16 thoughts on ““Ameerin Aadhi Baghavan”… Heaven help us!

  1. He’s that sensitive, apparently. Tell that to the sister’s boyfriend who ended up with a bullet through his brain.
    :) Perhaps he is capable of having two emotions at the same time, even if contradictory? And who know? Perhaps it hurt him more than the sister’s boyfriend when he killed him;but like all macho men, he just hid his angst. :D :D :D

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  2. What man – in the past you would point out the good things even in a horrible movie – this review seems to be like an homage to the reviews I write – unabashedly criticizing every element of a movie – good to see you learning from well known critics.

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  3. Hi, Baradwaj… long time reader, first time commenter. I felt a dismay akin to what you write about here when I saw Madhur Bhandarkar’s work after Chandni Bar. I haven’t revisited the Chandni Bar after that Page 3, and am very afraid that I won’t be able to appreciate it as much. In fact, even in my mind the moments that inspired me seem overwrought now.
    I loved Paruthi Veeran… a lot. I’ll make sure to avoid this.
    Thanks for being the canary.

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  4. Unrelated to this post but not completely irrelevant, what is your opinion of the critics ecosystem in the Thamizh film world? Have heard that your Malayalam counterparts are fairly active and respected (refer writer jeyamohan’s article on the latest Kerala film critics awards – http://www.jeyamohan.in/?p=34922)

    Especially with many Thamizh film makers striving to break the mould, isn’t the time right for such a thing? The mallus have had this for 40+ years now…

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  5. “Neetu Chandra, who establishes her Tamil-film-heroine worthiness by shepherding children across a street”

    Brilliant! This is the extent of characterization of heroines in Tamil films.

    This sounds like a film to watch so one can marvel at the WTFery. I might have to check this out…

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  6. Olemisstarana: I was dismayed too. I mean, there’s nothing that says that a formerly successful director can never stumble, but certainly not like *this*, with something that makes “Dhaam Dhoom” look like an underappreciated classic!

    Strickland: Let me throw this back at you. Is there any Tamil film critic you take seriously?

    Ravi K: Oh good, you got that line. I was wondering if I didn’t word it right :-)

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  7. BR – Critics of Thamizh movies in the English language, I guess there are only a couple that I listen to (and agree-disagree with in healthy proportion). But I am largely unaware of those in the Thamizh language. There are few on TV like Suhasini, Abhishek and Rohini – so maybe the question should be why aren’t there enough critics?

    Healthy “cinema as art” movements have taken place across the world (and in India) only where there is a culture of criticism. Don’t think that is a coincidence… [a counterpoint though is that Hindi movies have a much healthier culture of criticism than Thamizh but are still mostly stuck in a time-warp]

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  8. I went and watched this hoping to see something interesting from Ameer. And how disappointed the movie turned out to be. The twist made me roll my eyes over, not that the other scenes were any good. I had to make sure I’d walked in to an Ameer movie and as I can’t read Tamil I asked a friend to check if he was sure the director is Ameer and not the producer. What a rip off!

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  9. “I went and watched this hoping to see something interesting from Ameer”

    reviewsa padichittu padatha paakka pongappa ..unless it happens to be your thalaivar’s movie

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  10. vijay: Chha! For someone who’s been visiting this blog for so long, you still endorse a review as a recommendation to see or not see a film. What saar! ;-)

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  11. BR, certainly your review is not treated as just endorsement, podhuma? :-) I am talking about the rottentomatoes of the world in general and their kind of consensus ratings which has saved me a few hundred or thousand bucks and multiple hours of my life. You guys are the first line of defense against bad films. Thyaaga chemmalgal :-)

    Hithesh, cinema might be your thalaivar, but hope you don’t get to prove that by watching Kanna laddu thinna aasaiya in a theater. Watch your health :-)

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