In a recent interview, Vishnu Vishal had declared that Kathanayagan [Hero] – another home production – would feature him as a “hero in the true sense”. It just serves to drive home the fact that ‘a hero’ could mean different things to different people. To Vishnu Vishal, it is all about muscle-power and defending the weak, and in this case, the girlfriend’s (Catherine Tresa) father, from a bunch of goons. A hero could have well been about questioning long-held beliefs and convictions, and societal wrongs, but Vishal chooses to turn it into winning a drunken brawl with rivals, and flooring a dozen villains at once.
Much of Kathanayagan is devoted to the long-standing friendship between Vishal (Thambi Thurai) and Soori (Anna Thurai), who, we are told, are childhood friends. They bump into each other years later, so that Anna Thurai can aid in the larger scheme of things – which is to get a dreary love story moving.
Much before all this though, we are shown an exaggerated tale about Vishal’s reluctance to step up and ‘be a man’ when the need arises. He runs away from a bunch of goons who terrorise an elderly man; he runs away when he’s sought out to help kill a snake. And what a coincidence when the man whom Vishal doesn’t help turns out to be the girlfriend’s father? He stoutly refuses to marry his daughter to someone who won’t stay and fight. And thus begins the character overhaul – that of adding a pinch of this and that to a pot that bubbles away, which later explodes to reveal the hero that the formerly ‘weak’ Thambi Thurai has become.
If it conjures images of the theme of PowerPuff Girls, it isn’t far off the mark. But Vishal can never be as cool as the PowerPuff Girls. In his quest to herodom, he supports societal evils that are considered a crime. Otherwise, how can he flex those muscles? When a potential suitor for his sister’s hand demands a ton of dowry, the wannabe hero tries to sell a kidney for Rs 50 lakhs. It’s incredible, yet true. There just aren’t any voices of dissent, just meek acceptance, and the pressing need to collect enough money for the dowry. To make it more plausible, Thambi Thurai also gets wrongly diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, which obviously would make him volunteer to sell a kidney to support his sister’s marriage, founded on a social evil. The makings of a hero. Get the irony?
The only relief perhaps, Soori’s hit-and-miss comedy aside, is Vijay Sethupathi who makes a brief appearance as the chief doctor who ‘breaks’ the news about Thambi Thurai’s ‘disease’ to him. Despite Soori’s presence and Vishal’s strenuous effort to be the hero, Sethupathi easily walks into a welcome that Vishal would be envious of, and cracks jokes that would put Soori to shame. In a particular scene, surrounded by junior doctors, Sethupathi vacates his chair to stretch his legs, when a couple of his colleagues try to trail him. He quickly looks back, motions them to sit, tells them that he’s just walking up to the window which is a few metres away. All done with quick, easy hand gestures, and dialogue that is much better than most one-liners. And when he begins quoting Osho, the theatre erupts in appreciative laughter – the hero seems to have arrived, but it is not Vishal.
The Kathanayagan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie.