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Peechankai Movie Review

A killer premise that should have resulted in a way-funnier film

Baradwaj RanganBaradwaj Rangan

June 15, 2017 | 08:06 PM

FC Rating

★★★★★
film-companion
R.S. Karthik, Anjali Rao, M.S. Bhaskar, Vivek Prasanna, Peechankai, Ashok

Language: Tamil

Director: Ashok

Cast: R.S. Karthik, Anjali Rao, M.S. Bhaskar, Vivek Prasanna

I seem to be seeing Bresson everywhere. A couple of weeks back, we had Oru Kidayin Karunai Manu, where the donkey from Au Hasard Balthazar appeared to have reincarnated as a goat in southern Tamil Nadu, and now we have Peechankai (Left Hand), a film about a pickpocket. But unlike Oru Kidayin, there’s no resemblance other than the protagonist’s (played by RS Karthik) chosen profession. The film is actually a cheerful Soodhu Kavvum-type mix: black comedy plus slapstick thriller plus a dozen other “quirky” genre elements, played out between a dozen “quirky” characters. The quotes are to illustrate the difference between the movie in the director’s head and the one on screen.

Early on, S Muthu (he’s the protagonist, and the initial is essential; it allows a play on the name, as people call him Smooth-u) returns a wallet that falls from a man’s pocket. Why would he not hold on to it? He does, after all, pick pockets for a living. Ah, but he didn’t pick this pocket. This wallet is not the fruit of hard labour. The man thanks him, walks away, and then S Muthu picks his pocket. Even a thief, apparently, lives by principles. Peechankai could have used more humour in this flavour, but this flavour of humour merely makes us smile while the director, Ashok, wants to make us laugh.

The film is actually a cheerful Soodhu Kavvum-type mix: black comedy plus slapstick thriller plus a dozen other “quirky” genre elements, played out between a dozen “quirky” characters. The quotes are to illustrate the difference between the movie in the director’s head and the one on screen.

The big USP is a condition known as  Alien Hand Syndrome, in which (according to Wiki), “a person experiences their limbs acting seemingly on their own, without control over the actions.” Imagine the possibilities with a Charlie Chaplin, a Jim Carrey, a Nagesh: an accomplished physical comedian. Karthik isn’t much of one, but more importantly, he doesn’t get much help from the script, which is content to use this condition as an excuse to have S Muthu beating people up and then saying sorry. Why not use this USP in, say, the romantic track with Abirami (Anjali)? Then again, this isn’t much of a track. It comes and goes.

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The film is hit-and-miss. The director can certainly think out of the box. There’s a killer masturbation joke, and it’s not just a line but the payoff in a sequence that can only be described as a “men’s room heist.” A lot of the gags are elaborately thought through and sound wonderful on paper, like the newscasters who assume an emotion appropriate to the news they are reading out. But these gags don’t explode on screen. There’s a lot of dead air (the long, long kidnap scene, for instance), and the execution is sometimes a beat or two off. And too often, we are invited to laugh at lame wordplay, especially with a gang whose members misconstrue “bro” as “bra,” "Android” as “undraayar” (underwear). A film with this premise should have been way funnier.