Watching Saahasam – aka Prashanth’s attempt to prove he’s still relevant, by dancing and romancing and stopping moving cars with his fists (he plays a happy-go-lucky “youth” named Ravi) – I kept thinking it can’t be easy being the dialogue writer for a masala movie. You’re expected to give every line a… punch. I’m not just talking about the hero’s punch dialogues, like “Dhairiyam irundha cancer patient-um pozhachiduvaan. Kozhaiya irundha ulcer patient-um sethuduvaan.” The line may not be up there with “Yen vazhi thani vazhi,” but hey, you’re working with Prashanth here. He’s merely the… Top Star. Or now, the Seventeenth-from-top Star. Another line, after Ravi shoots down a bad guy, goes, “To remove bacteria from the bathroom, you need to use acid – not perfume.” That sound you hear is the copywriter for the Harpic commercials, banging his head on his portfolio. The bathroom references continue with the heroine (Madhu, played by blandly pretty white-faced North Indian-looking thing with a vaguely idiotic expression that’s somewhere between “tough language” and “easy money”), who examines a bar of Lifebuoy soap and sighs, “Enakku life-um ille. Boy-um ille.”
It’s not a bad story, actually. The first few minutes, liberally inspired by The Dark Knight, detail a bank heist pulled off by a team whose members do not know each other. (Sonu Sood plays the team leader, a hunky villain named Bittu. I suppose we should be glad the film isn’t his story, else we might be watching something called… Bittu Padam.) And at the other end, we have Ravi, a smart kid with get-rich-quick dreams. (We know he’s smart because he can solve a Rubik’s cube. This trait has become to Tamil-film heroes what striped underwear is to henchmen, what a white sari was to Pandari Bai after the sixth reel in an MGR movie.) Had the director, Arun Raj Varma, had half a clue, he’d have focussed on the similarities between Ravi and Bittu, which Ravi’s father (Nasser, in an I-need-this-cheque-to-remodel-the-kitchen role) painfully points out – after all, both men are after easy money. And it’s the father who hands the hero his mission, late into the film. Till then, Ravi is just on an ego trip.
At least, that’s what he calls it. He was forced to act dead in order to protect his family, and this is why he wants revenge. We hear it in his words, but we don’t feel any of it. Neither do we feel the plight of thousands of middle-class investors whose savings were wiped out in that heist. What, you may wonder, is the film filled with, if not these juicy arcs? Let’s see. There’s that scene in the grocery store in which Ravi places a pumpkin in an irate Madhu’s hands so that she stands still (it’s like a paperweight, he explains), and goes on to placate her. She doesn’t budge – until he says how much he yearns for their wedding night. She smiles. Maybe this is why they hire heroines who don’t know the language. The villain doesn’t know the language either. Sonu Sood’s scenes feel like he’s speaking in Telugu, with Prashanth replying in Tamil. He’s going through the motions too. It’s an I-need-this-cheque-to-remodel-my-gym role.
Thaman contributes a couple of catchy tunes. There’s one with a nice Asian effect, shot in Japan, where the extras wear kimonos and carry parasols and wave hand fans. Racist stereotyping, you say? I think the bigger offence is that the budget for this song sequence was not diverted to the script, whose primary function is to showcase Prashanth’s coolth. He sucks on a lollipop while gunning down a bad guy. His sister complains that he roams around the house in a sleeveless vest while her friends visit, showing off his chiselled biceps. (He does look like he’s spent the four-odd years since his last film with a personal trainer hanging from each arm.) There are more than a few references to how handsome he is, and many of these references come from the actor himself. He keeps looking at the camera as though it’s a mirror and he’d like to make love to the reflection. But why should this come as a surprise? It’s his home production, after all, which is often the same thing as a vanity project. It’s a my-daddy’s-got-an-unending-supply-of-cheques role.
- Saahasam = courage
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