Salim (Vijay Antony, who, in the words of the critic Leonard Maltin, runs the gamut of expressions from A to B) is a good man, which, in the movies, means that he has to keep doing good things so we don’t forget how good he is. Within the first half-hour of Salim, he establishes himself as a good Muslim (he never misses a namaaz), a good doctor (he refuses bribes and prescribes inexpensive medicines for the poor, which knocks down the profits of the hospital he works in), and a good human being in general (he teaches taekwondo to kids; he distributes food to beggars). Alas, he is not a good Tamil film hero. When his flustered fiancée Nisha (Aksha Pardasany) tells him that she’s been harassed by goons at a theatre, he doesn’t do what Suriya did in Singam, which is to provide the action choreographer a few days’ wages. He simply brokers peace and sends everyone home. An enterprising filmmaker would have put Salim on a flight to Gaza and followed his actions there – but here, we return to Nisha, who is understandably disgusted. She wanted Ghajini; she’s ended up with Gandhi. She tells Salim, “I’ve lost interest in you.” The audience nods furiously.
If Salim stayed this virtuous, there’d be no movie, even one so drearily predictable, so blissfully free of tension – so, after the intermission, he grabs a gun and barges into the hotel room of a dancer who’s just finished gyrating to a number that’s an ode to her mascara. She’s being harassed by goons, the way Nisha was – but this time, Salim swings into action. I thought that, him being a doctor and all, he’d put his medical knowledge to use – incapacitating these men by, I don’t know, pinching a vulnerable nerve or subjecting them to a chloroformed handkerchief or maybe even wielding his stethoscope like a nunchaku. Instead, he simply turns his attention – and his knuckles – to the solar plexus. It’s just good old fisticuffs. So much for imagination.
Salim says he wants respect, but all he wants, really, is to be the vigilante-hero of a Shankar movie – except that the flashback explaining the hero’s motivation is absent. Rather, it is front-loaded. Thanks to Scene One – involving a moonlit night, a girl in distress, and an all-seeing owl – we know why Salim is doing what he’s doing. At least, we think we know. Beyond a point, it’s futile asking questions like how Salim found out where that girl’s tormentors were, or how he put together the various twos. The director, NV Nirmal Kumar, subscribes to a rather charming theory: things just happen. Nisha just happens to morph into a ghost. Salim just happens to get arrested by a cop, who seems to be something of a ghost himself – he vanishes after a point. Salim just happens to visit an old man, who dies a few scenes later, having served little purpose other than to demonstrate another facet of Salim’s goodness. Bah. If he were really that good, he’d have refunded my ticket money by now.
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