Just over a year ago, Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Manithan – an entertaining court drama that featured the actor as a struggling lawyer – was a defining moment in his career. Stalin had to shed his Nanbenda-ness for the role, and the director had subtly, ever so cleverly, put his flaws to work so that they actually seemed quite in character. And for those who took their seats with trepidation given his past record, Udhayanidhi had in store a pleasant surprise. The Legislative Assembly elections were just around the corner then, and Manithan seemed like a smart campaign.
Saravanan of Saravanan Irukka Bayamaen, though, is of a different breed. Someone who well manages to undo all the good that Sakhthivel of Manithan had brought. Udhay Stalin is back where he wouldn’t really want to belong if he knows his audience. There’s nothing remarkable about him here, he doesn’t even try. Saravanan heads a political party, but exhibits little ambition. His party works on campaigns that deliberately go awry, but manages to amass a number of followers nonetheless. But when Saravanan chances upon a childhood friend-rival-cousin-playmate (yes, everything) whom he hasn’t met in years, politics and party are cast away, forgotten. The only moment that seems promising – when Thenmozhi’s arrival is announced – is quite fleeting. Just when I expect to see flattering profile shots of the heroine, music on cue, an angry little girl bursts in on the scene.
There’s Mansoor Ali Khan, with his tiger-claw pendant, a classic motif that Tamil cinema bestows upon its villains. Moneyed, powerful villains. Incidentally, it’s called puligoru. Pinterest has some interesting collection, if you want to look, but all very characterless when compared to the menacing, thick-chained, gaudy jewellery favoured by the bad men. Pair it with spotless whites, a handle-bar moustache, a thigh-slappingly ribald joke or two, and you have a 90s Tamil villain right there. Mansoor Ali Khan, meanwhile, plays the father of the son who pays court to Thenmozhi (Regina Cassandra). Soori, who has been bitterly upstaged by Saravanan in the party, plans revenge. Thenmozhi joins in. And thus, Saravanan, surrounded by rivals, invokes a spirit of a dead friend to help him. Spirit, though, cannot decide whether it wants to scare. There are hilariously-sinister warnings of something to come, but nothing does. Horror is now the new normal for Tamil cinema even when it has no business being there. But then, you realise none of the stuff in Saravanan Irukka Bayamaen deserves place in mainstream cinema.
More baffling is Udhay Stalin’s declaration in his latest interview with Firstpost, published this morning. The article, headlined “Udhay Stalin: I Try To Avoid Sexism In Films”, features the actor’s opinion on the subject:
[“Personally, I think we should avoid sexism in films. Good films have been made without it. But unfortunately, the masses expect glamour in a film. That’s the conundrum for filmmakers I guess. I’m trying to avoid it in my films.”]
He hasn’t, though. There’s sexism, there’s ‘glamour for the masses’, and just about everything that you wouldn’t want in a 2017 film. The comedians – Robo Shankar, Soori, Yogi Babu and Manobala – don’t have much up their sleeve save some unfunny routines and double entendres, so the best joke that the film could muster ends up a few miles short of humour. Yet, it’s quite telling of Saravanan and company.
Senior Party Leader to Soori: There’s 30,000 C in this suitcase, all for you.
Soori: [opens case in wonder]
SPL: C is for caps. For all our party workers.
To think, Manithan had Udhayanidhi almost changed.
The Saravanan Irukka Bayamaen 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.