While discussing filmmakers who begin with a bang, we usually talk about a “sophomore slump”. But is there a term for the opposite, when a Krishna bounces back with Nedunchaalai after debuting with the soggy Sillunu Oru Kaadhal, or when Lakshman follows up the awful Romeo Juliet with Bogan?
The beginning isn’t promising: a romance between Mahalakshmi Azhagamperumal (Hansika Motwani) and Vikram (Jayam Ravi). Bogan does away with a comedy track, but who needs one when Hansika is on screen? Note the name of the character. It’s practically a neon sign that, contrary to evidence, this is a Tamil girl. But when we first see her, she’s doing something good Tamil girls don’t do, at least not on screen. She gets drunk. Now, given the “bubbly” roles this actress usually plays, there’s always the suspicion that someone slipped a teaspoon of a psychotropic substance into her morning coffee, but things are slightly different here. She affects a slur, a childish drawl. She sways a little. Naturally, Vikram falls for her instantly.
Luckily, half an hour later, Aditya (Arvind Swamy) re-enters the picture and saves it. We first saw him in a sort of prologue, where his evilness was established by his participation in an orgy. He wakes up, and he’s surrounded by sleeping blondes and brunettes – one of them is using his unmentionables as a pillow. (The title song describes him as “mutham thuppum dragon” – a dragon that spits out kisses.”) And he returns when the eminently fast-forwardable romance is shoved aside for the plot about Aditya’s unconventional heists.
Turning bad may be the best career decision Arvind Swamy made. In his heydays as hero, he was blandly handsome, a not-bad performer – but something was always missing, and now, after Thani Oruvan and Bogan, we are able to put a finger on what it was. Edge, charisma – he’s got that now. He owns the screen. He hams gloriously as the villain, especially in a pre-interval interrogation scene where he calls a female cop machan and keeps tossing kinky asides in her direction, even as he threatens a male cop with a gruesome death. Jayam Ravi – who’s got one note in his repertoire, earnestness – pales in comparison.
Especially when he attempts to emulate Arvind Swamy’s swagger. This plot twist looks towards the fantastically trashy Face/Off, where cop and criminal switch places. But Bogan isn’t nearly as fantastic, or trashy. It’s perfectly watchable, but I wish the villain had been more than just someone who steals cash from local banks and jewellery showrooms. He needed to be mythic, especially given the manner in which he goes about his villainy. Nasser, who plays an archaeologist, says as much: had he had this power, he’d have switched places with the American President and ruled the world. They should release this film with subtitles in the US, whose citizens, right now, are sorely in need of wish-fulfilment.
There’s no character development (precious little is done with Aditya’s background as a prince), and pace is generated more through flashy editing (Anthony) and Imman’s background score rather than the writing – Vikram’s apprehension of Aditya is laughably simplistic. But the film looks grand, and it gets better as it goes along. As popcorn thrillers go, you could do worse.
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