Romeo Juliet, directed by Lakshman, is first and foremost a public service announcement from Kollywood: Look, boss, I know you saw ‘Kaaka Muttai’ last week, and it was funny and well-made and thought-provoking and everything you want cinema to be, but don’t go expecting that kind of movie every week. We are like this only. In other words, it’s back to business.
But at least there’s a nice idea in here. Karthick (a bland ‘Jayam’ Ravi) is a trainer at a gym. Aishwarya (Hansika Motwani, flawlessly implementing the acting mantra of treating everyone around as if they were her 97-year-old grandfather who’s misplaced his hearing aid) is a flight attendant. Their professions are fitting. He’s a modest man, content with life on treadmill-mode, but she has her head in the clouds – she wants to marry rich. They come together when she mistakes him for someone with a Benz and a house on Boat Club Road.
So we have a woman who’s very clear about the kind of man she wants. And who’s to judge her? We all harbour desires that, to someone else, may seem ridiculous – this is just her ridiculous desire. The most interesting stretch of Romeo Juliet – on paper; certainly not in execution – is when Aishwarya finds out the truth about Karthick, and because he’s fallen for her and won’t let her go so easily, she decides to teach him a cruel lesson. She takes him to fancy places and makes him spend tons of money to show him the kind of life she wants, the kind of money he’d have to make in order to give her that life. We’ve seen love stories. For a while, this is a tough-love story.
Karthick, too, is no stereotype. He cannot bear to lose Aishwarya, and in a turn of events quite rare for Tamil cinema, he debases himself constantly. He allows her to humiliate him just so that he can be around her. Later, of course, he gets his spine back and turns into – a Shakespeare reference doesn’t seem inappropriate, given this film’s title – Petruchio, all set to tame the shrew. Both Aishwarya and Karthick are thoroughly unpleasant people. They’re made for each other. At least, they deserve each other.
The film, though, is a disaster. I know it’s not much use examining this type of movie too closely – Dhanush might say, “It’s for the youth-u, not the critic-u.” I was willing to overlook quite a bit. Early on, when Aishwarya decides to “correct” Karthick, one of the ideas a friend gives her is to send him an “I Love You” note written in blood. And let’s not even get into Aishwarya’s description of herself as middle-class. For a flight attendant, she comes with an amazing wardrobe – you’d think she owned a plane or two. But she does look lovely, and the youth-u in the theatre certainly weren’t thinking about logic whenever she appeared.
Maybe we should ignore the male-fantasy element as well. When Karthick asks Aishwarya to wait five years so he can become the kind of man she wants, she tells him that she’s 24 now, a “figure-u,” and in five years, she’ll become an “aunty.” I think it’s safe to assume no women were involved in the scripting of this movie, especially in the scene where a repentant Aishwarya tells Karthick, “Enna seruppaala adi.” Elsewhere, when Aishwarya sets Karthick up with someone else, he compares their eyes, lips… Even better is the scene in which Karthick’s newfound girlfriend (Poonam Bajwa) invites him to her house and opens the door in little more than a shirt. “Hi machi,” she says. Then she winks and adds, “Veetla yaarume illa.” And proceeds to get him a glass of… badam milk. Had Shakespeare been wired the way this film’s writers were, his comedy about shipwrecked twins would have been called First Night.
But it’s impossible to digest the overall preposterousness. Like Raja Rani, Romeo Juliet just cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a screwball comedy or a melodrama – the tone is all over the place. And the writing is painfully inconsistent. Karthick’s self-proclaimed love for T Rajendar is just a lead-in to D Imman’s chartbuster, Dandanaka. We see romantic clips from older films over the opening credits and during a jogging scene, but soon this conceit disappears. It’s a new kind of screenwriting. Everything’s a bit, just for that moment – who cares about consistency and narrative arcs?
It might have helped if the jokes were funny. But there’s only so much the audience can do when Karthick tells his friend his girlfriend’s name is Aishu and the friend hears it as “ICU.” But maybe the characters are the real joke. Take Aishwarya’s super-rich fiancé (Vamsi Krishna). What kind of business tycoon coolly hands over the operations of his company to a flight attendant? Perhaps she said she worked in Business Class and he thought she said she took a business class? Ah, but again, I’m thinking about logic-u. Clearly, I’m no youth-u.
- “It’s for the youth-u, not the critic-u.” = lingo inspired by this song, which vent viral with the youth-u.
- correct = slang for getting a girl/boy to be your girlfriend/boyfriend
- figure = slang for ‘babe’, maybe with roots in the number 8
- “Enna seruppaala adi” = Beat me with your slipper (not in the S&M context, though)
- machi = bro
- Veetla yaarume illa = there’s no one at home
An edited version of this piece can be found here. Copyright ©2015 The Hindu. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.