Cast: Praveen Raja, Rajesh Giriprasad
Director: Biju Viswanath
A father-son duo set out to achieve an improbable, yet peculiar dream to travel to Mars. Instead of working hard and finding a job in ISRO or NASA to do this, they figure out a complex equation and the coordinates to a very specific location which will give them a shot at reaching the red planet. “The human mind is the only thing that can travel faster than the speed of light,” the father tells the son, who has befittingly been named Aakash. They keep trying for decades but to no avail until the son, on a cocaine trip, comes up with another solution. But it’s too little too late. He’s admitted to a de-addiction centre where he meets another addict, a musician who has just been kicked out of the band he started. And after being wrongly accused in a friend’s murder, the duo set out on a stolen motorcycle to get to the Palani hills, which Aakash believes is the launching pad for his trip to Mars.
Shot along the lines of an absurdist Coen Brothers’ movie, Chennai Palani Mars is a road trip that isn’t really about achieving one’s dream; it’s more about the importance of dreaming anyway, especially when it’s far-fetched and when no one else believes in it. And as the protagonist tells his buddy, “the success we achieve in this lifetime, is the result of many generations and lifetimes before ours.” You can almost overhear Vijay Sethupathi mouthing these lines, having written them himself. There’s also a lot of interesting writing that has gone into the characters. Like a suicidal IT employee who struggles to find a convenient time and place to kill himself. Akash and his buddy are also being chased by two cops with their own interesting backstories and quirks. But do these characters make the film interesting? Not really.
For instance, apart from Akash’s buddy Anadava Perumal (Rajesh Giriprasad) and the actor who played the suicidal IT employee, the casting is all wrong. You need a set of uniquely OTT performers to really fit into the strange setting this film operates in, but most of them, especially the two cops, play it like its comedy track in a 90’s movie. There’s also very little in terms of world building. For a film that is supposed to be “out of this world” with a lot of trippy visuals, the film looks basic at best. There’s perhaps a lot going on in terms of what the film’s trying to say, but it struggles to get us to care enough to sit up and take notice of it. In its effort to be absurdist, the film mostly ends up being plain absurd.