One must hand it to Siddharth. For an actor whose successes have come mostly from playing characters in a narrow bandwidth (Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi, Rang De Basanti), he sure keeps trying to cover the spectrum. His earnestness is touching – it’s like watching one of those Oscar-ready, inspirational, against-all-odds movies where someone learns to overcome a handicap by sheer determination and positivity. The last time we saw him, in Kaaviyathalaivan, he was trying to fit into the Tamil theatre milieu in the pre-Independence era. Now, in Enakkul Oruvan, the remake of the Kannada mind-bender Lucia, he plays two characters: Vicky and Vignesh. The former is a lowly usher in a seedy, single-screen movie theatre. The latter is a shiny superstar. In Lucia, the plain-looking Sathish Ninasam played the lead, and it was easier to accept him as the usher than the star. It’s the opposite with Siddharth, who has posh movie-star entitlement tattooed on his forehead. In order to play Vicky, therefore, he’s opted for makeup that darkens his skin – he looks as if he fell asleep in a tanning bed with the dial turned to the Guna-Kamal setting.
The problem when a good-looking performer goes “de-glam” is that we see not the character but the star who’s gone de-glam. Oh, we exclaim, there’s Nicole Kidman in The Hours, wearing a fake nose and trying to pass off as a mousy Virginia Woolf. But in Enakkul Oruvan, which is about the blurring lines between Vicky and Vignesh, this portrayal results in some interesting (if inadvertent) meta-commentary. It’s the old prince and the pauper story, except that we’re not supposed to be seeing one “disappear” and become another. We’re always meant to be aware of a star attempting to erase his aura of stardom, and of an ordinary man dreaming about becoming a star. As much as the film is about Vicky and Vignesh, it also functions as a chronicle of Siddharth’s attempts to be seen as the actor who’s more than just the Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi guy, the Rang De Basanti guy. Make-believe spills into reality in more ways than one.
The film begins with Vicky suffering from insomnia and stumbling into the lair – there’s no other word for it – of Vajravelu (John Vijay, overacting like crazy), some sort of mad scientist with tattoos, a pierced lower lip and much fondness for the Boney M oeuvre. Vajravelu offers Vicky a pill named Lucia – the cure for his troubles. Lucia will make him fall asleep and dream, and he’ll live the life of his dreams. Lucia could be cinema itself, which, at least in our movie-mad nation, offers millions an escape from harsh reality. Vicky, in his dreams, becomes Vignesh. In what seems, at first, a counterintuitive move (but makes sense later), the Technicolour world of Vignesh is rendered in black and white. The first transition is beautiful. This is Vicky’s dream, after all, and he sees himself as Vignesh – so the camera assumes Vignesh’s point of view and takes in his surroundings. Finally, someone holds up a mirror and Vignesh sees his face. It’s, of course, Vicky’s face. Soon, he’s slipped on a sequined glove and is grooving to one of Santhosh Narayanan’s smashing songs: Prabalamaagave pirandha aanada. (I was born to be famous.) Truer words, et cetera. Soon, he’s on the front page of The Hindu’s Metro Plus.
Like a lot of Indian cinema, the world of Vignesh – namely, the movies – is a world of boundless wish-fulfillment. Vicky falls for Divya (Deepa Sannidhi, who looks remarkably like Simran) when he sees her on a scooter, behind her father. He’s too shy to do anything about it – but Vignesh isn’t. In his world, Divya is a model featured in ads for a… scooter. He has his manager make a few calls. Soon, she’s his. This sort of thing may happen only in the movies – but at least, it’s his movie, projected inside his head, for an audience of one. Even Vicky’s story, that of an usher, makes it into Vignesh’s world as a “one line” for a potential project. It’s a thrillingly mad conceit, a Möbius-strip movie with a superb slap-on-the-forehead twist. Imagine the little boy in Cinema Paradiso all grown up and starring in a Christopher Nolan head-scratcher written by Charlie Kaufman, and you’ll have something like Enakkul Oruvan.
Prasad Ramar, the director, sticks fairly close to the template of the original – there are also subplots about detectives on a case, and loan sharks bearing down on the owner of the movie theatre (Naren) – but a lot is lost in the execution. If you’ve seen Lucia, you’ll miss at least two audacious scenes, one where Vicky’s torch turns into a projector, another where Vicky and Vignesh step into each other’s worlds. But even if you aren’t familiar with the source material, you may wonder why the happenings feel so flat, why the film doesn’t flow smoothly, why there’s so little mood. It’s no surprise that Enakkul Oruvan lacks the intimate texture and delicacy of Lucia. When you open up a niche, crowd-sourced film into something more mainstream, you are going to get more… “commercial.” And yet, the thing that made Lucia Lucia was its very offbeat-ness. Watching Enakkul Oruvan, you’re left with the feeling of waking up from a dream and coming face-to-face with harsh Kollywood reality.
- Enakkul Oruvan = someone inside me
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