“Yasakhan”… Help!

Posted on March 22, 2014


Spoilers ahead…

Surya (Mahesh), the protagonist of Yasakhan, is a do-gooder. At home, he takes out the trash, washes clothes, waters the plants. And outside, he pays the neighbours’ electricity bills, walks out of an interview (he’s unemployed) so that a friend’s wife can get the job, and when an old man is knocked down by a speeding bike Surya takes him to the hospital. He is, in short, a saint. And that’s deadly for drama, which is shaped better by the doings of sinners. After a while, Surya’s attempts at helping others become almost comical. He seems to lie in wait for these opportunities, like a door-to-door salesman who just won’t quit.

And he’s the silent type. When he beats up a bunch of eve teasers and is arrested along with them, he doesn’t tell his father, later, that what he did was right. (The father, naturally, keeps yelling at him.) Then he finds out that when he needs something, there’s no one to help. And worse, he’s diagnosed with a split personality – something of a joke, given that he has barely any personality let alone one that can be halved. His plight, at one point, is underlined by a piercing shehnai, last probably heard in the heydays of P Bhimsingh. How do you make a compelling movie centred on a man who’s simply too good to be true?

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The director Thuraivanan doesn’t seem to know either. A large part of the first half is spent on a bland romance, with Shalini (Niranjana), the daughter of a family friend. She may be a bigger saint. She says she’s thirsty and Surya stops by a shop that sells tender coconuts, twenty bucks apiece. Surya opens his wallet. He has only twenty. She sees this and orders just one – but with two straws, please. Ah, true love.

The characters are underdeveloped. The scenes have no punch. There’s not one believable moment. Take the stretch where Surya asks Shalini’s father for five lakhs. The man says he doesn’t have such a large sum, but it turns out that he has, and it goes missing the next day. Instead of asking Surya first, he goes straight to the cops and files a complaint. Surya is arrested. Then, somewhere else, maybe in a parallel dimension, two random kids are found with the money. Surya  is released. Shalini’s father doesn’t say a word. No apology. No remorse.

The sole interesting character is Sharada (Janaki), Surya’s sister. She’s one of those people who’ve been burned in love and is now charred to the very core. All she wants is a normal life, which is becoming increasingly impossible with Surya’s newly diagnosed condition. We’ve seen people like her, those who are so inwardly turned that they forget there’s a world outside, that there are others with problems. But she’s soon turned into a caricature, who suggests that Surya be finished off with poison so the rest of them can live in peace. By the time we get to the contrived “twist” ending, this begins to sound like a damn good idea.


Yasakhan = beggar
shehnai = a wind instrument typically used to underscore pathos

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Posted in: Cinema: Tamil