Dhillukku Dhuddu is less a movie than a manifestation of Santhanam’s career crisis. What does a comedian do when past his expiry date as the hero’s sidekick? Why, he turns hero, of course. So we get an introduction song, love duets with vapid and fair-skinned North Indian import (Shanaya) who can’t be bothered to learn her lines, more songs where he executes yo! choreography (while we struggle to keep a straight face), and fight sequences in which he lays waste many men as rock music pounds away in the background. Santhanam even looks different. His hair is slicked back. He has a sculpted beard, the kind that costs a month’s salary. And yet, some corner of his mind is telling him to not let go of the insult-comedy that propelled him to fame. So, at times, he returns to being that insulting comedian, calling people names: “Coat potta kulla kurangu”… “Periya size vavvaal”… “Muttaiya thedi vandha dinosaur”… “Meendhu pona palgova”…
The film, directed by Rambhala, is equally schizophrenic. At first, with Santhanam (as Kumar) in it, I thought it was going to be a skewering of horror-comedy clichés. The funniest line has Kumar accosting a ghost whose screams reveal bad teeth: “Keerai saadham saaptu vaai koppalikkaliyaa?” I thought he’d take on the ghost’s lacy white nightgowns next. But that would be a movie for Santhanam, the comedian. This is about Santhanam, the hero. A lot of time is wasted on the love angle, and it isn’t until interval point that the large cast (including poor Saurabh Shukla) moves into the haunted house. Newly minted MLA Karunas, clad in a lungi, gets a scene where he is levitated by a ghost and pleads, “Jatti podala.” The Rajendran parts work best, especially a bit structured like a revolving-door farce featuring real ghosts as well as pretend ghosts. The audience loves Rajendran, his sandpaper voice, his bald head – he draws huge whistles. He seems to be in the position that Santhanam was before he decided to turn hero. And so the wheel turns.
- Dhillukku Dhuddu = Money for guts
- “Coat potta kulla kurangu”, etc. = er, um… untranslatable
- “Jatti podala.” = No undies.
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