Director: Hiphop Tamizha
Cast: Adhi, Aathmika
The musical duo named Hiphop Tamizha – comprising Adhi and Jeeva – is behind the surprise success, Meesaya Murukku (Twirl That Moustache). They’ve written the story, screenplay, dialogue and lyrics, composed the music, and directed the film, which is somewhat autobiographical: this is the story of a boy with music-making ambitions (Adhi) who went to engineering college, met with failure before meeting a Radio Mirchi RJ who helped a video go viral, and ended up composing for a Sundar C film starring Vishal. The (admittedly catchy) song in the video went Clubbula mubbula, which is the hip-hop answer to the nineties’ hit, Senthamizh Naattu Thamizhachiye, a rant against Indian women who do “Western” things like going to bars, having a drink…
It’s “Tamil culture” as our films would have us believe, and it fits right in with the aggressively “Tamil” image that Adhi has cultivated, beginning with the likeness of Subrahmanya Bharathi that appears on the band’s logo. Subsequently, Adhi has been part of the jallikattu protests. The group lent its name to an apparel brand named Tamizhanda Clothing, which sells clothes with slogans and quotes written in Tamil. (From their web site: “Bringing to the fore - the fame of Tamil in a fashion attire. Stand tall. Sport the pride. Tamizhanda clothing.”) And then, there’s the music itself: hip-hop, with Tamil lyrics.
Meesaya Murukku could have been a celebration of Tamil-ness. But the film, frustratingly, settles into an uninspired chronicle of college life: ragging, lusting for biriyani, cultural events, and romance.
Meesaya Murukku, appropriately, features an early scene where Adhi’s father (Vivek) confronts the headmaster of the convent school Adhi is enrolled in. Adhi and his friend have been hauled up for speaking Tamil in class. Adhi’s father tells the headmaster, “English is just a tool for communication. Tamil is identity, adayaalam.” At home, he grabs a JK Rowling book from Adhi’s hands and gives him a copy of Ponniyin Selvan. (How about something simpler for a child?) His signature tic – one that Adhi will pick up later – is to twirl his Bharathi-style moustache. He puts up a poster of the poet next to that of Michael Jackson, thus telegraphing Adhi’s future as a mix of both: Tamil verse, Western form.
Meesaya Murukku, thus, could have been a celebration of Tamil-ness. (Even if you don’t agree with the sensibilities in Clubbula mubbula, you cannot dismiss the dramatic possibilities in such a storyline.) Or it could have focused on Adhi’s pursuit of music. He narrates the film and says, at the beginning, that life is a journey between failures and successes – the plot could have focused on these milestones. But the film, frustratingly, settles into an uninspired chronicle of college life: ragging, lusting for biriyani (and weeping when all that’s available is curd rice), cultural events, and romance (with Nila, played by Aathmika).
Meesaya Murukku has a few moments, but it’s neither an effective romance nor a convincing coming-of-age drama. It’s only after the interval point that Adhi gets serious about his music, and the Nila portions are clichés to the core. What explains the film’s staggering connect with the youth? Not that cultural phenomena are logical, but when something works despite so many negatives, you wonder what you are missing. A youngster might say that this film isn’t for forty-something critics, but that doesn’t take into account how “young” films like the exquisitely crafted Premam and Kirik Party work for everyone, and also work as cinema. Maybe that’s the thing. A “youth film” speaks only to the youth. A real movie speaks to audiences of all ages.
Watch the trailer of Meesaya Murukku here: