Adhik Ravichandran, the director of Trisha Illana Nayanthara, loses little time in establishing that his film is indeed the adolescent-male fantasy that the trailers promised. In the very first scene, set in a train, at night, a girl occupying the top berth invites a boy to share her space. The ‘sleeper class’ jokes write themselves. Later, Ramya (Anandhi) calls her boyfriend Jeeva (GV Prakash Kumar) — he’s fast asleep — and commands him to meet her outside his house. When he comes out and asks why, she reaches into her bag and extracts a bottle of whiskey. When he asks for a side dish, she offers her cheek. They embrace, and water erupts from a nearby spout. Speaking of water — or its Tamil equivalent, thanni — this film establishes some kind of record. Every single character arc connects back to booze in some way. There’s even a scientist — and what is he working on? The formula for… foamless beer. Aditi (Manisha Yadav), the girl Jeeva latches on to after being dumped by Ramya, is seen, at one point, drinking from two bottles.
And we come to the oddest aspect about this avowedly misogynistic movie, the fact that — in the most roundabout way — it treats its women with more respect than the average Tamil mainstream movie. Yes, I said respect. Like almost all our films, this is a male-gaze story. When Jeeva sets eyes on Ramya after a while, he’s seen massaging a milk sachet in each palm — the audience, most of them clearly awaiting the day their palms will be similarly filled, goes wild. And yet, there’s Aditi, who refuses to stop drinking, despite Jeeva’s admonitions. I thought she had a point. She’s effectively sending out the message: “If you’re saying alcohol consumption is bad, as the disclaimer does, then fine. That’s a health thing, a valid thing. But don’t tell me not to drink because I’m a woman, especially when you are never seen without a bottle in your hand. I have as much a right to ‘have fun’ and screw my life up as you do.” Even more surprising — shocking, even — is Ramya’s decision to move on to another relationship, after Jeeva. She doesn’t pine, and she doesn’t just hold hands with this new guy. I kept thinking the director would chicken out, maybe hint that she was taken advantage of or some such thing — but he doesn’t. Bravo!
In fact, a lot of the time, the joke is on Jeeva, who seems to be the only virgin around — he keeps reminding us about it. He doesn’t say ‘verge-in,’ like an English speaker. He dips the word in hot sambar and burps it out: vurr-jinn. You can sense the years (and years) of frustration with his still being bound to… uh, manual labour. In an amiably idiotic scene, after Aditi sends him a text message (Come to my room at one o’clock, baby.), he retreats to the bathroom with a doll — to practice. VTV Ganesh plays his uncle-cum-love guru. At first, he’s trotting out the usual crap: Ponnungala mattum nambave koodadhu. But later, he tells Jeeva that virginity is as extinct a notion as the dinosaur. The audience I was with roared for the first line. They roared even louder for the second.
Where the director really chickens out is in not pushing his ‘A’ rating far enough. At a time when films claim they are made for ‘family audiences’ despite having the worst innuendos, here’s someone being honest — he’s saying his film is strictly for adults. But why, then, waste so much time on songs and a soggy romantic subplot where Jeeva tries to prove he truly loves Ramya? After all, you’ve pretty much torched Thamizh kalaacharam with your heroines — why not gross us out all the way? Why not give us a Chennai-flavoured Porky’s or American Pie? But I wouldn’t write Adhik Ravichandran off. He has a good ear for laugh-out-loud dialogue and a good eye for the absurd. I loved the character named ‘Sengal’ Psycho — a lunatic who, for no reason, goes around pelting people with bricks. Next time, how about trying an all-out comedy?
- Trisha Illana Nayanthara = Trisha or Nayanthara
- Ponnungala mattum nambave koodadhu = Never trust women!
- Thamizh kalaacharam = ‘Tamil culture’
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