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.
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.
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