Yogi Babu in Gurkha

Language: Tamil

Cast: Yogi Babu, Charlie, Elissa Erhardt

Director: Sam Anton

If you’d ever owned one of those old keypad Nokia phones, you probably know that it can go under a bus tyre and still come out unscathed. Even if you didn’t own one, you probably have seen the memes, and Gurkha has a really good one in it. So that, is one joke. And then, you also get a hilarious dialogue from Ravi Maria, where the entire theatre bursts out laughing. This was very noticeable because apart from that dialogue, the film never earns even a single laugh from us, not even through one those cringe jokes which are momentarily funny.

But you watch on, only for Yogi Babu, who elevates the bland banters and “improvised-during-dubbing” jokes to just cross the “bearable” mark.

However, the film isn’t all about comedy. You get a flashback about the lead character—Bahadhur Babu’s (Yogi Babu) lineage, particularly his Gurkha grandfather who married his Tamil grandmom. And thus, you get Bahadhur Babu who is the mix of “north India and north madras” as proclaimed by Babu himself. They generalise North Indians to be Gurkhas (while being so specific to say north madras) just to get the word ‘north’ in there twice. The same dialogue, in some other movie probably wouldn’t have been a sore thumb, but in a film where you apparently feel so strong for a community, it does feel a little odd (more on that later). And that’s not the only contradictory scene. Babu’s grandmom tells Babu a story (which was so cringey that it felt like a scene from a KTV movie) about his Gurkha grandpa, who gets insulted for his ethnicity and his watch-guard job. But when the life of the guy who insulted him gets threatened, he fights the bad guys like a badass and sacrifices his life. All this, only to be immediately be mocked by the guy’s own grandson as “idhu laam oru kadhai” (that’s a lame story)… WHAT!?

During the credits you see a character wearing a blue shirt reviewing the film, and he says something along the lines of “a bunch of guys in a raincoat are apparently the terrorists and a dumb yet nice guy is the saviour; and they call the film, a comedy, the only problem is that, nobody laughs”. Seeing that, it felt as if they made the entire film and decided “You know what, this is bad, so… we’ll call us out, ourselves, before they do! Add this scene to the credits boys!”

If you have seen the film’s trailers you probably know that the story is about how Babu saves the hostages, in a shopping mall from a bunch of terrorists. And since it is a comedy, naturally, you can count many comical characters among these hostages. Like a politician who calls people “anti-indian”, a bunch of ignorant aunties, a ‘saamiyaar’ who is a womaniser, and the head of the TV channel who leaked the sex tape of this ‘saamiyar’. These are very specific and quirky characters but none of their jokes work, and not only that, it also ruins the more serious undertones the film attempts to establish; like how army veterans aren’t supported financially well enough by the government due to corruption. So, when one of the hostages die you feel nothing, because none of the characters seem to feel anything. No shock, no fear, no sort of any emotional consequence is visible. However, later on, when the life of a kid is in danger, you feel the tension, because: 1) cool intercuts by Ruben and 2) because the other characters feel afraid and anxious, therefore, the audience too.

You need to see Gurkha to appreciate a movie like Payanam (alias Gaganam) by Radha Mohan. It had a wonderful balance between comedy and seriousness and it used the supporting cast to really drive home those contradictory emotions to full effect and with honesty.

And that honesty is important. Do you really feel what you are communicating or are you acting as if you are. For when Babu himself calls his co-Gurkha friend “Chinese”, I really doubt it. It might just be a casual superficial joke based on someone’s appearance, like all friends make fun of each other, but such a stand seems fake, when within the same movie you have cringey, over-the-top scenes.

In case you wondered why I never mention Elissa Erhardt, the film’s heroine, it’s because she is quite absent throughout the film, like in this review, apart from that one song of course.

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