Tamil Reviews

Billa Pandi Review: A Long, Tiresome Love Letter To Ajith That Rides On Old Tropes

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Director: Raj Sethupathy

Cast: RK Suresh, Chandni Tamilarasan, Indhuja, Thambi Ramiah

Composer: Iniyavan

In school and in college, I thought I was the next dramatic prodigy whose art was under-appreciated. I also believed that the world was hatching a conspiracy by not casting me in the school plays, or at best giving me non-speaking bit parts because they were jealous I would overshadow them. And so I believed the only way to exhibit my unfettered genius was to seize the means of production. Write, produce, and put on my own play.

It was shit.

A part of me knew it was shit back then but still believed that was because I did not have the right actors or the right support or the right lighting or the right audience. Now I know it was unmitigated disaster, worth not even a mention in my eventual memoirs.

I thought back to it now, after I spent three hours and change in a near-empty cinema hall cringing through another unmitigated disaster of a production – one made with motives that sounded and felt exactly like my own: show the world I too can sing and act and direct.

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Somehow this production too survived every roadblock thrown its way, and released to a Tamil cinema audience that has seen some really bad films.

Billa Pandi isn’t just bad. It is entirely sincere. And because it is sincere and well-intentioned, it is therefore that much worse as a film. It is also a three hour-long love letter written by a fan to his idol. Because #ThalaRoXoXOX.

*****

Billa Pandi stars RK Suresh, Thambi Ramaiah, Chandini, Indhuja, and others, with cameos by Vidaarth and multiple Ajith cutouts. The film is directed by Raj Sethupathy, on a story and screenplay by MMS Moorthy. And it features music by Ilayavan. It is produced by KC Prabath.

It released on the same day that Vijay’s Sarkar released. This is either a bad thing for the film, or a good thing. For Tamil film goers. The jury is out on what this means to Ajith and his fans.

*****

RK Suresh was a producer. Then he turned brooding, stoned, evil as evil can be villain for Bala’s Thaarai Thappattai. In Billa Pandi, he is Billa Pandi, a die-hard fan of Ajith and therefore a walking-talking-dancing heart of gold. He is a construction worker/mason/building contractor in a small village in south Tamil Nadu and incidentally, he is the head of the local Ajith fan club. I have always thought Ajith was a very northern Tamil Nadu and urban star, with fan clubs in the bigger cities, never in the small villages. But perhaps I am wrong.

Billa Pandi can only do good. And so when the two caste groups in the village fight over who gets first priority in a temple, he pretends to be possessed by the very deity – and in classic Tamil cinema fashion – jumps, shouts, rolls his tongue and eyes, and shuts everyone up and settles everybody down.

Because Ajith fans ought to have both devotion and common sense.

Billa Pandi loves his aunt’s daughter – Valli (Chandini). Valli loves Billa Pandi. But Valli’s father doesn’t share the sentiment, and in a departure from usual Tamil cinema village-subject-love-story, neither does Valli’s mother, Billa’s aunt. But because Billa Pandi is Thala fan, and although he is capable of sweeping his lover off her feet and taking care of her the rest of his life, he will not act hastily.

Meanwhile, Jayalakshmi (Indhuja) – a rich upper-class city girl – we know this because what else can she be? – is also in love with Billa Pandi, because he is a walking-talking-dancing heart of gold who is prepared to kill and maim men for being disrespectful of women.

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Needless to say, Jayalakshmi’s parents oppose this pure love. Very soon after, there is a car crash; Jayalakshmi’s parents die and Jayalakshmi herself has a “frontal lobe disorder” and therefore – like no other Tamil cinema before – becomes a little six-year-old girl trapped in the body of a much older woman.

And so, the heart-of-gold has to become father of adult woman and sacrifice true love to save the woman who nearly died for him, never mind the other woman’s feelings.

Because Ajith Fan. Possibly.

*****

Billa Pandi has liberally borrowed boring old tropes from every Tamil cinema ever. A lot of these tropes were crappy in the past, and haven’t aged well since then. There’s an unhealthy dose of sexist “jokes”, and despite some muting and beeping, a fair amount of misogyny. While the writer and director disagreed on where the plot was going, the lead actor looked like he disagreed on the whole fandom thing. For an Ajith fan, RK Suresh spoke, danced, and fought like a cross between Vijay and Dhanush. Thambi Ramaiah must retire, retire to an existence where he repents for all the attempts at humour he has made. Chandini and Indhuja have nothing more to do than conform to stereotypes, Indhuja especially. Playing the “innocent” memory loss heroine is quite likely Lesson 0 in the Tamil cinema school of acting.

Too bad RK Suresh wanted to be kind-hearted hero. I really liked him as the evil villain.

Too bad Ajith and his fans will have to find ways to live this film down.

*****

The Billa Pandi 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.

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