Tamil Reviews

Johnny Review: A Poor Copy Of Sriram Raghavan’s Cult Hit

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Director: Pa. Vetriselvan

Cast: Prashanth, Sanchita Shetty, Prabhu

Composer: Ranjan Durairaj

Can someone pass a law against reusing film titles? We’ve had everything from Padikathavan to Polladhavan a little while ago, but the industry seems to have doubled down on the trend since. We now have completely unrelated versions of Server Sundaram (unreleased) and Tik Tik Tik. If we can’t even be innovative with film titles, then what to make of the films themselves? Here comes Johnny, defecating all over Mahendran’s great film and one of Sridevi and Rajinikanth’s greatest performances. And guess what? This one isn’t original. It is a remake. Prashanth returns to the screens after quite some time in Johnny, produced by his father Thiagarajan with the screenplay too credited to Thiagarajan. There is a note of thanks to Sriram Raghavan in the beginning. Johnny is the remake of Raghavan’s cult hit Johnny Gaddar and director Vetriselvan, Prashanth and Thiagarajan combine to deliver a Tamil pretender with all the magic of the original removed.

The original shows us a present-day scene and proceeds to give the back story, the events leading up to gunshots. Johnny begins with a hero introduction scene for Prashanth, a fight ensues in a basement parking lot and all we get are hands, legs and quick cuts. Prashanth may never have been much of an actor, but the just about competent facade has worn off. It’s like Prashanth has just returned to the gym after a gap of four months, everything from his face to hands and torso are too stiff to move even an inch. Therefore, the camera has to compensate with its movements when the hero is not in the greatest of positions to use space. And yet, the hero introduction scene is a must.

Johnny Gaddar had one of the shrewdest of scripts going along with great visuals and hat tips elegantly put together by Raghavan. It made no secret of its noir origins, ambitions and influences. Johnny on the other hand doesn’t even try. It shoots straight and even at that, it is lazy. The way Johnny has been made, there is a palpable sense of distrust in the audience from its makers. There is the hero introduction scene. There are some scenes that are spelled out by the actors instead of being shown, the way it is in the original. Prabhu playing Dharmendra’s role from the original is the only one who seems to have taken this less seriously and is having fun. In the original, we get a little information about this man and his wife, their relationship which informs our feelings during a later event. That’s completely dispensed with by Vetriselvan and team. Johnny is a great example of how stories and plots rarely matter in film. It’s what you do with the visuals, the narrative and the writing. Same story, same plot. Two completely different films. Director is king.

The replacements made in Johnny tell their own story. In Raghavan’s film, we are introduced to Rimi Sen’s character while she is reading R K Narayan’s ‘The Guide’ (in reference to Dev Anand’s Guide which also follows from the title hat-tip, Dev Anand’s Johnny Mera Naam). Here, Ramya (Sanchita Shetty) is seen reading Johanna Lindey’s ‘A Rogue of My Own’. What a fall. A particular plot point from Parwana is directly referenced in the original but looks like after a lot of research, the makers here settled on a scene from K Bhagyaraj’s Vidiyum Varai Kaathiru, as if they wanted to find a replacement for Parwana but nothing that sounded organic. Lastly, James Hadley Chase from the original has transformed into David Baldacci in Johnny. But if the makers are this self-aware about the inferiority of their product and came up with the right analogies then I guess it must count as a win.

*****

The Johnny review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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