Titles come in cycles. There was, at one time, the “pa” series of names, and alongside, we had long titles that left us in little doubt about what we were in for – Thaai Magalukku Kattiya Thaali, or Manaalane Mangaiyin Baagyam, or Paanai Pidithaval Baagyasaali. About the latter, I don’t care for the film much, but I love the title. I love the fact that there was a time people went to the theatre and asked for a ticket for something called… Paanai Pidithaval Baagyasaali. I love to imagine the reaction of the person manning the ticket counter at Sathyam cinemas, today, if faced with that name. Then we had a series of films named after famous film songs – especially in the 1980s. Some of these were from older songs, like Ninaikka Therindha Maname. A lot of them acknowledged the omnipresence of Ilayaraja: Oh Maane Maane, or Paadum Vaanambadi.
Now, we seem to have entered an era where, when the film’s title is thought of, the tongue remains firmly in cheek. Casual is what they’re going for these days. Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya. Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru. Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara was an especially delectable title. It made me want to watch the film. But there are others that make me want to stay away. I had no desire to watch Aaya Vadai Sutta Kadhai. I wasn’t very keen on watching Ivanukku Thannila Gandam, either, but then word began to trickle out that it was something of a hit, that it needed to be checked out. I checked it out.
The “thanni” in the title, of course, refers not to what’s found in the oceans but what the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen warns us not to drink. What a joke this disclaimer is. The very first scene has a man in a TASMAC shop pouring out whiskey into a plastic cup, practically mocking those words under him. Later, a phone rings and the ring tone is Oru koppayile en kudiyiruppu. And, of course, we have the mandatory dance in the bar. If this is a sly demonstration of the contempt our filmmakers have for authoritarian health freaks who won’t actually ban sales of these products but will insist on paying lip service to the harm they cause, I’m all for it. A soon-to-be-released film is titled Vasuvum Sarvananum Onna Padichavanga. It acronyms to VSOP. Vive la révolution!
Ivanukku Thannila Gandam tells a Hangover-type story about three friends – Saravanan (Deepak Dinkar), Milk Pandi (Sentrayan), James (Elango Kumaravel) – who, after a lot of drinking, find it difficult to recall what happened, and why a gun-toting hitman (Rajendran, who’s a riot) is apparently executing kills that they’ve commissioned. Someone should have paid him to wipe out about an hour of this film. There’s no reason something that’s essentially a scattershot collection of gags should go on like this.
The scenes setting up the “plot” are the weakest. Saravanan is a television anchor and when his upscale show is usurped by someone close to a higher-up, he’s demoted to hosting a sex show titled Vetkapadaamal Kelungal. I sat up expecting some risqué comedy, but the minute I saw who was playing the sexpert, my heart sank. Manobala. With some actors, you know exactly how they’re going to play their parts – there’s no surprise. The jokes aren’t great either. Or rather, the jokes aren’t allowed to be great because this is a “family film” and you can’t really use the kind of language that would make these jokes great. We’re stuck with lukewarm euphemisms. Later, we see that Milk Pandi is in love with a woman named Rose. Rose… Milk. Get it? Not that there’s much to get. Even the scenes with a loan shark named ‘Soodu’ Bhaskar – if you default on a payment, he makes you drop your pants and brands your buttocks – aren’t as funny as they must have seemed on paper.
But there’s enough in here to keep you giggling.
Man 1: Yen pondaati vayathula puzhu poochi illa.
Man 2: Aarogyama irukkanga-nu artham.
Prachnai-ngardhu mazhai kaalathula urine maadhiri. Vandhukine irukkum.
I laughed my head off at the scene where the hitman ends up witnessing a largish woman bathing. She drops the bar of soap. He keeps giving her instructions on where to find it. That’s a refreshing thing about this film. It’s not afraid to be politically incorrect. Dark skin. Large women. Anything for a laugh. Plus, there aren’t that many songs – always a plus. Even Saravanan’s falling-in-love number – with Deepika (Neha Ratnakaran) – isn’t a duet. It’s staged like a comic set piece, with a bloke always bathing in a corner of the frame.
The past few weeks, we’ve been seeing films whose heroines seem to know how to act, and also how to speak the language. Neha Ratnakaran here. Regina Cassandra in Rajathanthiram. Lakshmi Priyaa in Kallappadam. It’s a little… surreal. Somehow it just doesn’t feel right. It just doesn’t feel like we’re watching real, honest-to-goodness… Tamil movies.
- Ivanuku Thannila Gandam = This guy shouldn’t be around water…
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