It’s arguably the least fun April Fool’s Day for most of us and I realise there aren’t too many pranks one can play on others, given the current mood and limited resources. After an unconvincing attempt at fooling a friend on Skype by drinking water off an empty bottle of hand sanitiser, I sat down to watch something that would remind us of funner times.
But the deal with comedy is that it’s always going to be a limited resource, just like food and water these days. Of course, one can always be on the lookout for fresh content but, on days like these, what one really yearns for is the kind of comedy that brings with it, its own set of memories. This again has become extremely difficult with so many comedy shows on TV and the extreme convenience of YouTube. We hardly feel the joy of stumbling upon a great comedy scene by accident as it plays on TV. We’ve all seen it several times, and with meme makers working overtime, some of these great Goundamani or Vadivelu sketches don’t even mean the same thing anymore.
Looking at more recent films, especially in Tamil, one feels the 2010s was a pretty ordinary decade for comedy. There was no lone comedy superstar like the earlier decades. Apart from an in-form Santhanam in the first couple of years, we quickly saw the Mottai Rajendrans, the Sooris and now, the Yogi Babus quickly exhaust their stock. The fact that the frequency of Kamal-Crazy Mohan films too fell during this period only adds to the lack of laughs to look back at.
But one of the few exceptions to this is Gokul’s Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai Balakumara (IDAB), now streaming on Hotstar. Vijay Sethupathi, back then, was still an actor we were discovering. Apart from that roaring performance in Soodhu Kavvum, one didn’t really know if the actor could carry an entire comedy film on his shoulders. Five minutes into watching his Sumar Moonji Kumaru for the first time in the theatre, all such doubts were cleared. But the film wasn’t just about him. There’s a time in every comedy actor’s career where even mere presence on screen can elicit laughter. When it comes to this film, one feels that several actors were going through such a phase. Robo Shankar, Mottai Rajendran, Soori, Jangiri Madhumita and Daniel Anne Pope — all of them got their own scoring scenes here before any of them became the overused actors they’re starting to become now.
Of course, it’s a movie that’s driven by comedy, but it also has great scenes like the one where MS Bhaskar, playing the strict office manager, is misunderstood by his employees even though he looks out for them. It’s also a reminder of the time when a comedy film remained what it was instead of suddenly transforming into an episode of Krishi Darshan in the last 20 minutes. The climax alone is enough to rewatch the film that still holds up pretty well. Watch it again if you want to be “Kumudha happy”.