Had a first-time filmmaker made Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga, we may have smiled indulgently at the handful of scenes and lines that worked (thanks largely to the genial Sivakarthikeyan, who has a sly way with the one-liner), and dismissed the bloat elsewhere. In other words, we may have slapped the label “time-pass” on it, deciding that there was at least something to keep us fitfully amused, and the other things are not worth getting worked up over. But with Pandiraj, whose work since the charming (and National Award-winning) Pasanga has yielded steadily diminishing returns, there is a bit of dismay that yet another promising filmmaker has decided to genuflect before the Holy Trinity of present-day Tamil cinema: natpu, sarakku and thathuvam. Fifty years from now, will the defining characteristic of Tamil cinema of this era be seen as the scene with aimless friends on a terrace or a TASMAC bar, their speech slurred by bottles of beer?
There’s at least one interesting thread here. When a girl winks at Murugan (Sivakarthikeyan), he says what eve-teased women on screen have been saying for decades: “Nee ellaam annan thambi oda porakkale?” His best buddy Kesavan (Vimal) fares worse, battered by wire-fu stunts – those slo-mo leaps and kicks our heroes are so fond of – executed by his love interest Mithra (Bindu Madhavi). Later, Kesavan is told that, in order to marry Mithra, he has to give her family a “dowry,” and when Murugan is asked how he plans to support a family when he has no job, he confidently states that his soon-to-be wife Pappa (Regina Cassandra) will look after him. Had this been followed through consistently, we’d have had something worthwhile – not in some lofty film-theory sense of “subverted heroism” or any such thing, but simply as a spur for comic scenes. We’d have had a Pandiyarajan move rejiggered for a new generation.
But this angle is only sporadically touched upon – in the second half, the spunky girls make a mysterious U-turn and meekly accept Kesavan and Murugan – and we’re left with the “plot,” which has something to do with political ambition. Let’s not get into the depressing aspect of youths opting to stand in elections simply because it’s an easy career opportunity, apparently requiring no real skills – this is supposed to be a comedy, after all. But it’s galling, in a movie that’s content to milk laughs from a hero’s bleeding bum, when we’re fed messages about our youngsters entering politics (new blood and all that) and leading useful lives. Worse still is the bizarre tragedy-inflected tone change towards the end, where we’re now fed messages about the greatness of fathers, which leads to the scene where Murugan writes on a picture of his father “Dad is my God.” (Now this is comedy.) Somewhere in the middle of all this, Delhi Ganesh earns what is hopefully a nice little pay cheque, clutching a Learn English in 30 Days book and drunk-dancing to Kalasala.
An edited version of this piece can be found here.
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