And the law of averages catches up with Vijay Sethupathi. It was always going to be tough for the actor to find, yet again, something as buzz-worthy and as much of a zeitgeisty sensation as Pizza or Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom or Soodhu Kavvum – but at least Gokul’s Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara isn’t a lazy movie. It is, in fact, the opposite. There’s too much of everything – too much plot, too much mood, with three narrative strands infused with three unique sensibilities. The track with ‘sumaar moonji’ Kumar (Vijay Sethupathi) slips between his present and his past – the former involving a local dada named Annachi (Pasupathy), the latter about Kumudha (Nandita), the girl-next-door whom Kumar stalks loves. The vibe here is that of those other Vijay Sethupathi movies – zesty and irreverent and suffused with some form of cinephilia. In the middle of a song sequence, we break into bits of nursery rhymes – Ding dong bell, puss is in the well – set to the tune of the Jaishankar hit, Manam ennum medai mele, which, in turn, was set to the tune of the Dev Anand hit Sau saal pehle.
The second story zeroes in on Bala (Ashwin), a slacker sales-executive whose only interest is getting drunk with his friends. His angst about the difficulty in finding “cooling beer” in a TASMAC joint is hilarious, but otherwise, his escapades quickly become tiring. Here, the mood is tragicomedy. We’re meant to laugh at Bala’s shenanigans and we’re meant, also, to feel for Bala’s plight – he has a sister whose wedding is going to be expensive, a girlfriend (Swati) who’s looking to take their relationship to the next level, and worse, an ugly plot contrivance to tackle when, in his inebriated state, he’s involved in an accident (which throws into peril the life of someone we’ve met barely a minute ago). And from there, it’s just a few steps to one of the deadly sins of moviemaking: a big, fat message, whose only silver lining is that it isn’t offensively hectoring. Heaven save us from filmmakers who seek to change the society around them through comedies.
And the third scenario revolves around a big shot who’s knifed in that TASMAC joint, and it features the two characters who made me smile the most – a fanatical follower (Soori) of that big shot, and the big shot’s wife, a loony femme fatale with a fondness for oversized flowers and a tendency to speak as if auditioning for an erotic scene in a silent movie. The mood here is light, bordering on the surreal, and these scenes are funny because they aren’t enclosed in the emphatic quotation marks found everywhere else. Gokul wants us to know he’s an out-of-the-box thinker, so he hits every note hard, as if afraid we won’t notice. And yet, how radical is it, really, when the prelude to Sundari neeyum is used in conjunction with a Malayali woman whose boss has fallen for her? Or when a lighthearted “prayer” song cuts away to a tearjerker scene at a hospital? Oh, I was also taken by the antics of a character called ‘Sound’ Shankar. That name is funnier that most of this movie.
An edited version of this piece can be found here.
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