The best hero-centric masalas have a set format. A star who gets pushed to the brink and fights back insurmountable odds to win. The end is never in doubt, and it is the how that makes them fun. When fightback is reduced to a series of bare-fisted stunts with hired henchmen, Bairavaa is what you get.
Bairavaa borrows heavily from the Srimanthudu template, with its director creating a cartoonishly evil villain who has seemingly absolute control over an entire town. Jagapathi Babu’s PK is a serial murderer who has enough clout to make central ministers listen to him unquestioningly. Then the hero shows up and beats up a bunch of thugs. Then he beats up other thugs. The beating up is interspersed with sage advice on the art of living, delivered from various locations. Education is important. Thwack. Relationships make a life worth living. Thwack. Invest your money in a mix of stocks and bonds. Thwack. Thwack, and more thwack.
A cricket match happens early in the movie with the villain bowling, and his sidekicks fielding. An old man bats. The first ball hits him on he body, he yelps in pain. He tries to run, the sidekicks throw the ball at him. He yelps in pain. Second ball hits him on the body, he yelps in pain. He tries to run, the sidekicks throw the ball at him. He yelps in pain. Third, fourth, fifth and sixth.
And soon after, the villain is bowling again and his sidekicks are fielding again. The hero bats. He hits the first ball towards a fielder, who dramatically doubles down in pain from the power of the ball. Ouch. Exit sidekick.
Next ball, another fielder down.
Third, fourth, fifth…
It is an overly long and excruciatingly lazy sequence, poorly conceived, written and directed. The wisecracking from the sidekicks is unfunny, the actors go through their motions and a puzzled audience is left wondering what the point of it is all.
It is the sequence that best represents the movie.
Santhosh Narayanan mixes up the chest-thumping riffs of Varlaam Varlaam Vaa with his trademark subtlety in the background score to class up Bairavaa almost singlehandedly. His songs sound better on screen than they do off it, even as Vairamuthu recycles his old tropes into new lyrics. “Play me like a drum, read me like a book” and “Show me heaven by hitting your breasts on me.”
He also is a master at the art of using lyrics to mask some regressive thoughts. In one duet, the heroine tells her suitor, “The country needs no violence. True. But violence is what a woman wants in bed.”
But then Unmai (truth) rhymes with Penmai (feminity) and so it is all good.
But sometimes, the songs are helpful. There are 3 directions other than East one song tells us. Who’d have thought?
When Vairamuthu does try to be original (Silicon statue, my moon from out of town), the results are spectacularly bad. In the spirit of recycling, one is reminded of an old quote. “Your Manuscript Is Good and Original, But What is Original Is Not Good; What Is Good Is Not Original.”
True to the unwritten rule of Tamil star vehicles, Bharathan stays away from even the faintest whiff of subtlety. Everything is black and white (except the heroines costumes). When the villain wants to malign a dead woman, he accuses her in public of being a whore. She goes to rich men for money, he says, and the theater gasps in shock. Not content, he maligns her some more. Never stayed in her room at night, he adds. And then some more. She was a drug addict who had drugs in her purse. His assistant nods. The audience is snickering by now, wondering why he missed out on alcohol. He doesn’t disappoint. “On the day she died,” he tells us solemnly, “she was drunk.”
Vijay, in a new hairdo, eases through a role he has done a hundred times, and Keerthy Suresh smiles her way through a role she is certain to do a hundred times. For a star of his stature, it is disappointing that he continues to pick movies that barely challenge him. Vijay’s hair debuts, and this reviewer is unable to predict its future. And in an exclusive scoop, we can confirm that Keerthy seems to have hired the costumer of Meera Jasmine. Satish plays the hero’s friend, making hero’s friend like jokes. We laugh politely and wait with mild horror for Thambi Ramaiah to make an appearance. He does.
We are not that worried about humour, because we are fortunate enough to watch in a theater that offers a subtitled version of the movie. Rekhs, the sub-titlist, has an affinity for strange English (“Your name, will you tell?”, “Flower scented” and “Life shattered”) and an urge to never repeat a phrase twice. This leads to hilarious results during song sequences that repeat lines. ‘Manjal Megham oru Manjal Megham’ is contorted into barely recognizable descriptions (Buttercup colored). Her mangled interpretation of Tamil lines and pretentious subtitling would be a distraction for most movies, but here, they are just entertaining. I mean, who else can take the thugal in Kanavu Thugal and call them dust particles?
And in conclusion, all that we have to say is this. Will someone ban Nitrous Oxide from Tamil movies?
The Bairavaa review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.