Director: Vijay Anand
Cast: Santhanam, Yogi Babu, Rittika Sen
Just last week, we met a psycho who does unspeakable things to women. This week, in Vijay Anand’s Dagaalty, we meet a man who’s possibly worse. He’s very rich. We know this because he plays the piano and lives in a mansion with marble statues. When not playing the piano, he draws pictures of women and orders his men to find a real-life woman who looks exactly like the woman in the picture, the woman he has drawn from his imagination. At least Mysskin‘s psycho took the trouble to find his victims himself. This man snaps his fingers and an all-India network of minions gets cracking.
Unlike Psycho, though, Dagaalty is a comedy. I think. I was not sure whether I was supposed to find this nutty millionaire fearful or funny. This confusion exists throughout the narrative, which goes back to the road-movie template from classic Hollywood comedy/romances like It Happened One Night and Roman Holiday. A headstrong/loosu ponnu/adventure-seeking woman (Rittika Sen) flees from home, and runs into a mildly unscrupulous man (Santhanam) who merely wants the money he will get for escorting her to the painter-cum-piano player. (Her face resembles the one in the latter’s latest painting.) Will he betray her? Or will love save the day?
It’s not a bad premise — but like I said, no one knows what to do with it. The trademark Santhanam “insult” comedy (“akkul mudi thalaiyaa“) co-exists with masala/mass stylings, like in Ghilli or Chennai Express. Poor Santhanam. I really felt for him. He wants to shake off the “hero’s sidekick” tag so badly, but then, every comedian has a season and his season has passed. Just like he supplanted Vivekh, Yogi Babu (who’s also here) has supplanted him. So he’s trying to showcase himself as a leading man. But does he want to be a comic hero or a hero hero?
Does he want his action sequences to be funny set pieces or real-looking ones? Does he want to be stalkery (like when he sees the woman’s hip just as a road sign says “dangerous curves ahead”) or gentlemanly (like when he frees sex workers)? Does he want his own vehicle or is he content referencing the films of other, bigger stars? The lack of clarity is painful. Only in the last 10 minutes do we see what Dagaalty could have been, a Priyadarshan-style comedy of confusion. But then, what do you do when your hero no longer wants to be just a comedian? At times, you feel Dagaalty is not so much a film as the record of a profound existential crisis.