Tamil Reviews

Odu Raja Odu Review: A Dated Premise With One Too Many Plotlines

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Director: Nishanth Ravindran, Jatin Sanker Raj

Cast: Guru Somasundaram, Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli, Anandsami, Nasser, Simran

Composer: Tosh Nanda

There’s never been a more fitting name for a film than Odu Raja Odu [Run, Raja, Run]. The frames – and characters are always on the move, in a tearing hurry, on a mad dash towards god knows where. The directors – Nishanth Ravindran and Jatin Sanker Raj – though, seem to have mapped it all out in their heads, and assume the audience knows, sees and understands what they do. A rookie error, but an expensive one at that for all the fast-paced action and those snazzy jump cuts seem absent of thought. But you see the intent, you see what the visuals will the audience to appreciate, but there isn’t any to muster.

There’s Manohar (Guru Somasundaram), a writer struggling for inspiration, in search of that elusive, but mostly overrated spark. Things with his wife Meera (Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli) aren’t rosy. She feels underappreciated, seethes in resentment – Lakshmi Priyaa in a now familiar role after the critically-acclaimed (and equally-reviled) Lakshmi, and Revelations. If in Sarjun’s Lakshmi, she was the wife of an abusive husband that sought comfort in the arms of an artist, in Revelations (a Vijay Jayapal film that released on Netflix), she was one half of a couple that drifted apart – towards other lovers. Odu Raja Odu features her in a similar role; the bored, lonely wife of a writer who has his own preoccupations – in a marriage that has lapsed into dull monotony and become comfortably complacent. It’s almost as if Lakshmi Priyaa decided to fight the storm of hate that came her way when Lakshmi released with renewed vigour, by essaying one more character that is ever on the precipice, grappling with emotions that are in conflict with societal morals.

In ORO, Meera decides what they need is a set-top box to liven things up; it seems to be the make or break caveat in their marriage. A premise that seems ripe with thematic possibilities, but the directors have greater ambitions, and hence reduce Lakshmi Priyaa to a stereotypical caricature of a sulky wife who confides in a kindly neighbour. When they do surface from their all-consuming vision for a fast-paced crime-comedy, there’s respite – Meera receives some direction.

At its heart, Odu Raja Odu wants to be one of those scripts that begins at different points, traverses several places and faces, and finally makes them all converge in a splendid closing; a climactic vision that might have attained fruition if not for the sea of new faces, and just as many threads that the audience is engulfed in. Guru Somasundaram and Laksmi Priyaa are the only actors who seem to invite engagement; you don’t quite care about the rest. One almost expects Guru as Manohar to swipe back his hair, acquire a nervous twitch as in Joker’s eccentric Mannar Mannan, but he has no such attributes here – Manohar is just a beleaguered husband caught in situations that at times seep into one another; the directors attempt a kind of spill over comedy that fails to work. A particular humour sequence is excruciating even when you know it is meant to be unfunny, and when the filmmakers douse the script in black comedy and a large dose of drama, they turn reckless; a child is kicked around in a crude attempt to evoke emotion.

Quite simply, Odu Raja Odu intersects the lives of a married couple, a group of friends – perhaps the first documented instance of (indulgent) polyamory on Tamil screen, with the riveting presence of Ashiqa Salvan – and a couple of rival gangster mobs. The events happen over the course of a day, with unapologetically outrageous constructs as befit such capers. But then, the premise seems too convoluted at times, and frayed at the edges, especially considering last year was all about films that attempted to connect disparate events – Maanagaram for instance. While ORO, at worst, is a classic case of lost subtext, somewhere during the transition from paper to screen, at best, it could well be an anachronistic idea, having come into being well past its prime. It even has references to Rs 1,000 notes.

*****

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