Cast: Sundeep Kishan, Vikranth, Soori, Sasiga, Thulasi
Doctors are having it bad in Tamil cinema. Barely has Mersal branded their profession as mercenary, and we get Suseenthiran’s Nenjil Thunivirunthal (If You Dare), which opens with the hero’s (Kumar, played by Sundeep Kishan) father ending up dead on the operating table of an incompetent physician. Another movie that’s going to launch a tirade against men in white coats? Not really. But the film itself could have used a lot of invasive surgery. Much later, in the second half, when Kumar explodes into a rage-filled speech against doctors, I rolled my eyes — because that opening scene, the unresolved emotion from this needless tragedy that’s been festering inside Kumar, has long been forgotten. At least, until Kumar mentions it like an afterthought. How can we be expected to remember what happened to Kumar’s father when Kumar himself doesn’t seem to remember it?
A song between friends. Some truly sad comedy by Soori. A song between lovers. Some snarling by the villain. It’s that flavourless, that generic
Nenjil Thunivirunthal plays less like a movie than a prototype for a movie: a collection of placeholders for plot points that they forgot to flesh out into interesting, involving scenes. We could have had cards stating “This is where the hero meets the heroine,” or “This is where we reveal that the hero’s best friend loves the hero’s sister,” and the film would be no different. Because other than the fact that this is what happens, there’s nothing else. There’s no finesse, no how. A song between friends. (Vikranth plays Mahesh.) Some truly sad comedy by Soori. A song between lovers. Some snarling by the villain (Harish Uthaman). It’s that flavourless, that generic.
The premise is similar to what the director handled to far better effect in Naan Mahaan Alla and Pandiya Naadu, where ordinary men found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. The story has terrific potential. (It’s the tragedy with so many of our films: great story, lousy screenplay.) Without spoiling too much, let’s just say the Kumar/Mahesh friendship runs really deep, and the ruckus around Mahesh falling for Kumar’s sister, Anuradha (Sathiga), is not what we think it is. It’s a classic instance of misdirection. In theory.
But that’s Suseenthiran. On a good day, you get Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer. On a bad day, you get Rajapattai
But it’s not enough to think up twists and red herrings. You also have to flesh things out convincingly. Here, we don’t even get a convincing reason for why Kumar’s mother (Thulasi) is so against Mahesh. Or how Kumar, who’s shown to be mild-mannered at first (he’s seen apologising on behalf of Mahesh), transforms into a full-blown action hero. Put differently, the beats that were worked out so well in Paandiya Naadu look silly here. But that’s Suseenthiran. On a good day, you get Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer. On a bad day, you get Rajapattai.
Between a slew of terrible scenes — Kumar being mistaken for a dietician by an obese man; the entire romantic track — we get the film’s sole point of interest: that Anuradha is more than just the hero’s sister. The character isn’t, as usual, sentimental or ornamental. Note the nameplate outside their home: “K Anuradha MBBS.” She seems to be holding the family together — at one point, Kumar asks her for money. I didn’t know whether to cheer that the hero’s sister had been conceived as an independent achiever, or hiss at how she’s soon reduced to… the typical hero’s sister, who’s just around so that the men can flex their muscles and save her. At the end, Kumar pleads with his mother on Mahesh’s behalf. “He will take care of Anu till the end,”. Take care of her? The nameplate on the door is a distant memory.