Two strangely similar comedies have hit screens this week – and it’s not just the déjà vu brought on by the overlapping cast (Devadarshini, Bosskey, Manobala, and the seemingly unstoppable Santhanam). Both films are centered around elaborate (and somewhat mean-spirited) con jobs perpetrated on innocents. Both feature alabaster-toned heroines (Isha Talwar, Hansika Motwani) who appear as much as home in these surroundings as a Zulu tribesman in Gstaad. The pacing in both these comedies suffers severely from ill-timed (and badly shot) song breaks. Both films manufacture gags from 1960s TM Soundararajan hits. Both try to milk laughs from the (now apparently mandatory) exclamation: “It’s a medical miracle.” And both weave riffs on 1970s Amol Palekar comedies. If Sundar C’s Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru is possessed by the spirit of Chhoti Si Baat, then Badri’s Thillu Mullu is a reincarnation of Gol Maal. Oh, and both films – each about two-and-a-quarter hours long – feature about a half-hour of genuine laughs.
Thillu Mullu tells the story of a young man (‘Akila Ulaga Super Star’ Shiva) who lands a job with a lie, and is forced to act as his own twin to avoid being fired. Shiva’s USP is that he delivers his comic lines with utmost earnestness, without intonations or quotation marks – and we laugh as much at the rubbish he’s spouting as our being (almost) taken in by his mock-seriousness. (“Neenga Facebook-la irukkeengala?” “Illa, Mylapore-la irukken.”) But he’s performing in a vacuum. The film, in its earlier avatar, was aided immensely by the eye-rolling eccentricities of ‘Thengai’ Srinivasan, which is exactly what’s needed when the hero is playing it straight. Prakash Raj, here, isn’t allowed that kind of leeway – he’s given nothing to work with. And things are made worse by a screenplay that moves in fits and starts, never building up steam. Isn’t there more to comedy than one-liners?
Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru at least has better one-liners, borderline surreal non sequiturs – and all of them are entrusted with RJ Balaji. (“Cycle-la kaathu illa, Ernakulathula vaathu illa”.) Santhanam, in comparison, comes off a tad stale, with his now-patented mix of alliteration and rhyme. The story has to do with a wallflower (Siddharth) who’s forced to hire the services of a “love guru” (Santhanam) in order to get the girl of his dreams. Like Thillu Mullu (and unlike Sundar C’s earlier film and rousing return to form, Kalakalappu), Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru is hampered by a screenplay that needed to be zippier, and its most revealing aspect may be its equation of unattractive women with Gandhimathi and Vadivukkarasi, while the other end of the spectrum is brought up by invoking Kareena Kapoor. All we have in this state, apparently, are women of a certain age, which is why we have to keep importing our heroines. Mystery solved.
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