‘Gold’ to ‘Liger’: The Big Disappointments of 2022

Some of the biggest hits of 2022 came from south India but so did a few disappointments
‘Gold’ to ‘Liger’: The Big Disappointments of 2022

As trite as it may sound, 2022 was the year of south Indian cinema, with blockbusters like K.G.F.: Chapter 2, Kantara and RRR capturing the nation’s imagination. However, on the flip side, there were plenty of films that didn’t live up to the potential of their cast, crew or premise. Not all these films are necessarily the worst that came out this year – there’s a lot of competition for that list – but they’re just disappointing because they could have been so much more. Health warning: Our list of disappointments includes box office hits and flops. 

13. CBI 5: The Brain (Malayalam)

The fifth instalment in K Madhu and SN Swamy’s CBI franchise comes 17 years after the last one. Mammootty is impeccable as the audience’s beloved Sethurama Iyer with the character’s eccentricities intact. It’s also good to see actor Jagathy on screen after a long time. However, the plot – which revolves around the death of a minister on air – is nowhere as satisfying as the previous films. The final clue – a piece of newspaper – that nails the perpetrator is especially silly. 

Oru CBI Diary Kurippu (1988), the first film in the franchise, distinguished itself as a well written investigative procedural. None of the subsequent releases could quite match up to the magic of the original, and CBI 5 is the least impressive. It may have done well at the box office, thanks to the high nostalgic value for the franchise, but it’s probably time for Iyer to honourably retire from the big screen. 

12. Wonder Women (Malayalam)

Anjali Menon’s film on female friendship, released on SonyLiv, has a brilliant cast comprising Parvathy, Nadiya, Nithya Menen, Padmapriya, Amruta Subhash and others. The film is about a diverse bunch of women who meet at a prenatal class and form close bonds, supporting each other through this difficult period. 

While the premise has been rarely explored in Indian cinema, Menon doesn’t build up the conflicts of the characters sufficiently. As a result, the resolutions seem too quick, convenient and chirpy. The diversity also seems a tad forced. Despite the performances of the cast and some scenes that are truly moving, Wonder Women fell short of its own potential. 

11. Vikrant Rona (Kannada)

Directed by Anup Bhandari, this wonderfully shot thriller about serial killings of children in a village, offers some chills but squanders the promise with underwhelming writing. The film has Sudeep playing a police officer who investigates the case. Playing with supernatural elements and drawing from the director’s previous hit film RangiTararanga (2015), Vikrant Rona offers a fascinating world in 3D.

However, the unravelling of the plot and the explanation for the eerie happenings are disappointing. The film’s climax is also problematic in the way it presents an incident of caste violence and its consequences, and uses that to villainize marginalised people who are at the receiving end. The plot meanders from one event to another without forming a cogent narrative, and there are too many loose ends as it draws to a close. 

10. Cobra (Tamil)

Ajay Gnanamuthu’s thriller has Vikram playing dual roles – hero and villain. One is a mathematical prodigy who doubles up as an assassin and the other is a computer genius on his trail. Though the premise sounds exciting, the film is overly long (three hours and three minutes and three seconds) and convoluted, making it a tiresome experience. Vikram is reliably good in the multiple roles. However, the actor has done so many films in which he plays a character with mental health issues and/or sports prosthetic makeup that Cobra just looks like a rinse-repeat routine. 

9. Head Bush (Kannada)

A biopic on Bengaluru’s first underworld don, M.P. Jayaraj, this gangster saga should have been a thrilling delve into the world of crime. Directed by Shoonya, the film has a valiant Dhananjaya as an anti-hero. The story traces back to events from the 1970s, but what should have been an intriguing plot with twists and turns receives mediocre treatment. The film depends too much on slow-mo shots to add excitement and the writing fails to make an impact.

The caricaturish villain (Vasishta N Simha) is a strawman in the film, making it a one-sided battle. Maybe it’s the K.G.F. hangover, but Head Bush seemed like it was trying too hard to be a ‘cool’ gangster flick and ended up being totally underwhelming. 

8. Valimai (Tamil)

H Vinoth is among the most promising young directors of Kollywood. Valimai, his second with Ajith after Nerkonda Paarvai, was therefore a highly anticipated film. What’s more, the film was going to have Ajith performing bike stunts! The expectation from fans was so huge that they demanded ‘Valimai updates’ from the production team wherever possible – including a cricket match.

But when the film finally released, it proved to be disappointing. Ajith plays a police officer who hunts a bunch of bikers involved in the drug trade. It’s reportedly inspired from the real life story of the Satan’s Slaves Motorcycle Club in Sixties’ England, but there was little to be excited about in the bloated and melodramatic screenplay. The second half especially seems clueless and plays out like a soap opera. There’s little to applaud in the film other than some cool bike stunts.

7. Naane Varuvean (Tamil)

A Selvaraghavan film in which he does a cameo and has brother Dhanush in dual roles – what could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, a lot. This horror thriller has a fairly solid first half, slowly building up the world of a family man who is running away from his past but has to confront it to save his daughter. Dhanush plays this beleaguered man and his psychopathic twin – and despite its similarities to Aalavandhan (2001), there is some intrigue in how the story unfolds.

But as the film progresses, it takes so many convenient leaps that you are expected to buy any twist it pushes on you. The story is hampered by generic writing and the characters don’t really make you feel for them. The supernatural element borders on unintentionally hilarious by the time the film draws to an end. 

6. Gold (Malayalam)

Alphonse Puthren’s return to cinema after the phenomenal success of Premam (2015), Gold was one of the most anticipated films of the year. Starring Prithviraj and Nayanthara, the film has Puthren’s signature all over it. But what looked so organic and spontaneous in Premam seems like a laboured effort in Gold.

The film is about a man (Prithviraj) who discovers a bounty in a vehicle that someone has illegally parked in his compound. There’s a lot of wink-wink satirical humour, zany edits, fun music and innumerable cameos, but it doesn’t amount to very much. Nayanthara spends most of her screen time (which is too little to begin with) aimlessly munching on popcorn on a couch, making us wonder why she signed the film.

5. Beast (Tamil)

Nelson started his career with the quirky dark comedy Kolamaavu Kokila (2018) and followed it up with Doctor (2021), a crime comedy that became a big hit in a year when people were reluctant to go to theatres because of the pandemic. His collaboration with Vijay, therefore, was expected to be a cracker of a film. 

But what we got is a juvenile film that almost looks like Nelson is parodying himself. Beast is about terrorists taking over a mall, and an ex-RAW agent (Vijay) plunging into the rescue mission. The film also stars Pooja Hegde but she has little to do other than be the damsel-in-distress. Apart from the fact that Vijay has never looked better on screen, Beast is a total washout. 

4. Radhe Shyam (Telugu)

Radha Krishna Kumar’s period action film with Prabhas and Pooja Hegde in the lead was made with a whopping budget of Rs 300-350 crore. The film unfolds in Italy in the 1970s, like a fairytale romance. A palmist (Prabhas) and a woman with a fatal disease fall in love, and must question their beliefs if the romance is to succeed. Despite its luxurious canvas and some impressive visual effects, the romance never really takes off thanks to the mediocre writing. 

3. Acharya (Telugu)

Directed by Koratala Siva, this is the first time that Megastar Chiranjeevi and son Ram Charan had full-length roles in the same film. Both the stars play Naxals, and you’d expect such a combination to be a riot on screen. But what we got was a series of dull lectures on ‘dharma’ and ‘adharma’ with a few ‘Lal Salaams’ thrown in. Barring a dance that features Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan, Acharya is tedious from the beginning to end. This was Ram Charan’s next release after the humongous success of RRR, and it sank without a trace. 

2. Monster (Malayalam)

Vysakh and Mohanlal together gave Malayalam cinema its first Rs 100 crore film – Pulimurugan (2016). While Pulimurugan too had its share of crass jokes and loud direction, it still worked as a mass entertainer. After all, Mohanlal was hunting tigers in the film! Monster, however, is a monstrous bore, with Mohanlal playing an undercover cop called Lucky Singh. The film is about an insurance scam run by a lesbian couple (Honey Rose and Lakshmi Manchu), and the script takes great liberties with logic to get to the crux of it. It’s not just the grating double entendre humour or the offensive depiction of lesbian women. Nothing about Monster makes any sense.

1. Liger (Telugu)

Puri Jagannadh’s sports action film has Vijay Deverakonda playing a stuttering mixed martial arts champion named Liger – because he was born to a father and mother who believed themselves to be a lion and tiger respectively. This ought to have been a warning for the audience. 

Liger uses every trope that you’d find in a sports film, and then adds the world’s most insipid romance to that concoction. It’s difficult to say what was worse in the film – Ramya Krishna’s belligerent mother act, Ananya Panday’s plastic expressions or Deverakonda channelling his Arjun Reddy energy for the nth time. The little said about boxing great Mike Tyson’s cameo, the better. 

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