It’s 2025. Things look slightly different. The handheld devices, for instance, have a holographic quality. But The Hindu still looks the same – there’s even the same masthead. And Tamil film heroes still behave the same way. Take Saravanan (Sunil Kumar), the Indian soldier who’s been captured by the Chinese and is being interrogated in a torture cell. The Chinese army chief (Singaporean actor Wilson Ng), who’s clearly a fan of Subhash Ghai films from the 1980s, draws a map of India and, inside, he writes: “CHINA.” This is his extremely subtle declaration of intent to conquer our nation. (China, we’re told, resents India’s growth. So whatever Modi’s doing is apparently going to yield gangbuster results in a decade.) Saravanan could have simmered silently, waiting for a chance for the perfect revenge. But that’s not how Tamil cinema does things. So he lets loose a roar, snaps free from the chair he’s bound to, fights the guards, erases “CHINA” and, with his blood, writes “INDIA.” It’s a star moment without a star.
First-time director Sugan Kartthi is ambitious – perhaps too much so. A film like Moondraam Ullaga Por – filled with helicopters, submarines, rumblings about India’s corrupt political class, jingoistic retaliations, the threat of the Third World War of the title – needs a certain scale, and the budget simply doesn’t allow for it. The acting is raw – and in the case of Ng, hilariously overripe. He throws his head back and cackles after every evil pronouncement, and at one point, he produces, with a flourish, something he calls an Electrochemical Liquid Bomb. The attempts to humanise Saravanan are even more laughable. As he flashes back to his wedding night (Akhila Kishore plays the wife), we see him typing out on his tablet: “how to make the first night the best night.” Viewers are likely to be divided between “at least the director tried something different” and “why take on a subject you know you can’t do justice to?”.
- “Moondraam Ullaga Por = Third World War
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