Vijay Milton’s 10 Enradhukulla wastes little time in letting us know that it is a hero-centric masala movie. A battered, bloody man who’s being held hostage has with him a package. He’s waiting for someone to pick it up. Pasupathy, who plays one of the villains, asks him the name of the pickup guy. The hostage says he doesn’t have a name. Pasupathy asks mockingly if the man’s God. The hostage’s reply is a punch line: “Kadavulukku car otta theriyaadhu.” He’s just kidding. Soon enough, God comes speeding through the air – in a red sports car, somersaulting over a broken bridge. It’s Vikram, of course – and we never learn His name. Through the course of the film, He tells us it’s… Bill Gates… James Bond… Mani Ratnam… Sunil Gavaskar. It’s supposed to be a running gag, even if He seems to be the only one laughing. By the end, it doesn’t matter. The film is as anonymous as its leading man.
On paper, the union of Vijay Milton and Vikram sounds like masala heaven. Vikram has made terrific masala entertainers like Dhool and Saamy, and Milton’s last film was the marvellously entertaining Goli Soda, of which I wrote in this space, “Its signature achievement is its ruthless unmasking of how hollow most of our masala movies are, and how, with a little imagination, just a little, you can make a film whose appeal is broad and which does not insult the audience.” With 10 Enradhukulla, Milton has made exactly the kind of movie for which Goli Soda appeared an antidote. The writing is shockingly scattershot, right from the scene that’s supposed to set up the story – the butchering of lower-caste people by an upper-caste clan in Uttarakhand. This is a crucial event, one we’re meant to hold on to, but the director seems in a hurry to stage it. It goes by in a blur of disjointed speechifying and dismembered limbs.
And instead, what does the film choose to depict in detail? The efforts of Shakila (Samantha) to obtain a driving licence. She’s failed 14 times, and this time she says she’s sure to succeed. She is, after all, wearing her lucky dress. It’s in maroon. If there was a college-level course called Loosu Ponnu Studies, Shakila would graduate with a gold medal. There’s a scene where the warden of the hostel she lives in barges into her room and demands to see her. Her roommate says she’s not there. The warden makes angry noises about rent that hasn’t been paid. It seems like a serious situation. The warden leaves, slamming the door shut behind her. Shakila, we discover, is hiding behind that door, giggling as if she slipped a frog into the warden’s lunchbox. Gee, what fun it must be, this prospect of finding yourself out on the streets. Maybe she’ll burst into a happy song.
Or take the scene where the hero slips his car keys into a cardigan Shakila has hung out to dry. After a while, she slips the garment on. He says the keys are in the pocket. She says they aren’t. A tussle ensues. He puts a hand into the pocket and ends up touching a lady part. In case we’re in any doubt about which part, the soundtrack helpfully alerts us – we hear the honk of a horn. Shakila looks as if she’s been violated – for two seconds. We expect some kind of closure to the awkward scene. Maybe he’s appalled. Maybe he’ll apologise. Maybe she’ll tear into him for violating her personal space. But the scene ends. Soon, she finds something else to giggle about. Shakila is the kind of character who, if you hear she’s being targeted by a gun-toting assassin, makes you pray he’s got firm hands and a good aim. She’s the centrepiece of 10 Enradhukulla, there in practically every scene. Vikram help us.
The film is a road movie that makes pit stops at the most interesting places, like a Renigunta bar where item girl Charmi gradually loses various items of her clothing. Elsewhere, Abhimanyu Singh lies in wait. The actor gnashes his teeth as if auditioning for the Ashish Vidyarthi slot of Talented But Underused Bollywood Performers Who Find Fat Pay Cheques Down South Playing Villains. There’s another villain, played by Rahul Dev, who possesses magical powers. One minute, he’s on a horse. The next, he’s on a train. There’s no rhythm to the proceedings, no continuity – even the stunts are underwhelming. And there’s a laughable twist at the end that has to be seen to be disbelieved. What is it about snagging big stars that makes our filmmakers so lax about the other aspects of filmmaking? The star is the one who puts people in the seats, but the writer, the director is the one who keeps them there. It’s hard to grudge Vikram this fluff. After his back-breaking efforts in I, he deserves some fun. But what about us?
- 10 Enradhukulla = Before counting to ten…
- “Kadavulukku car otta theriyaadhu.” = God can’t drive a car.
- Dhool = see here
- Saamy = see here
- Goli Soda = see here
- I = see here
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