All we ask of a comedy is that it keep us entertained. At least, this is what I ask. Not plot. Not acting. And certainly not whether it “makes sense.” I was doing some idle YouTube-ing a while ago, and came across this scene with Kallapetti Singaram and two others. They’re villagers, and they’re in the city for the first time. Inside a posh hotel, they see a man step into an elevator. The doors close. When the doors open a little later, a woman steps out. They think the elevator is a magic gender-changing box, and as none of them have had much luck with women, they hatch a plan… I cracked up. This is all I want, really – a series of silly “bits” like this one, strung up to feature length.
Unfortunately, Yuvaraj Dhayalan, the director of Eli, gets tangled up in the mechanics of a dense plot that’s – are you ready for this? – based on The Departed. Vadivelu plays a small-time conman named Eli who’s asked to infiltrate a criminal organisation, etcetera. There have been films (the Pink Panther series, the Austin Powers movies) that have mined comedy from crime, but just about nothing works here. Eli is full of scenes that go on forever – and for no reason. It begins with an AIR broadcast in which someone goes on about… the evils of smoking. Why this PSA in a comedy? Just because the villain (Pradeep Rawat) is a cigarette smuggler? I’d have preferred a PSA about the two-and-a-half hours that loom ahead.
No one seems to know what to do with this material. The director keeps adding masala elements like action scenes and songs. You’d think these would be comic action scenes, comic songs. But only occasionally. The rest of the time, it’s all played depressingly straight. Even Vadivelu is stranded – the gags he’s in are shockingly weak. He gets a scene where he romances Sadha (she’s the moll, I think) to the strains of Mere sapnon ki rani. He lip-syncs the whole song, as if the mere idea of Vadivelu in a Rajesh Khanna scenario is automatically funny. It is – for about ten seconds. But like the rest of the film, this bit too goes on forever.
- Eli = rat; sorry, too depressed now to think up anything clever
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