Cast: SJ Surya, Karunakaran, Priya Bhavani Shankar
Director: Nelson Venkatesh
Released on the same day as Mr.Local, Monster too is a comedy but the two films couldn’t be more different. Both are meant to be family movies with a love story at its centre yet Monster comes from a place of wholesomeness Mr.Local can’t even aspire for. For one, the jokes that land don’t come at the expense of someone. Even the rat in Monster gets more respect that the women in Mr.Local. Naturally, the same maturity has gone into the writing of the love story that holds Monster together. Anjanam Azhagiya Pillai (a role tailor-made for SJ Suryah) isn’t too lucky in love yet when the girl that stood him up calls him to apologise, it becomes the beginning of something wonderful. For love isn’t a competition, unlike it is in Mr.Local, and when it strikes, both parties end up as winners. Not only is the female character, Mekala (played charmingly by Priya Bhavani Shankar), strong but her strength is not being questioned. In contrast, Anjanam might seem the weaker of the two but that’s never used against him; he’s just as loveable either ways.
Which is why we’re fully invested when a rat enters his house. In SJ Suryah’s words, Anjanam’s 1BHK apartment in Velachery is his Taj Mahal for Mekala. And when he lovingly buys her an expensive sofa (we could have avoided the product placement though) for the drawing room, we’re just as nervous as he is about the rat nibbling at it. In a bad film, nothing seems to matter even when a man’s life (or job as in Mr.Local) is at stake. What’s a sofa in comparison, but it’s the success of this film that we feel terrible when it gets damaged. What we aspire for isn’t what we would have ideally wanted had the situation been real. We don’t want the rat to be killed because Anjanam wouldn’t want that to happen. This makes for not just an interesting “cat-and-mouse” game but also some wild cartoonish fun.
Like the silent stretch where Anjanam builds a makeshift mousetrap out of a plastic bottle. The scene has tension, it has fun and it has the laughs yet it doesn’t seem over the top. Like in the Home Alone movies, the cast (especially SJ Suryah) and crew seems to have gotten the “Jim Carrey-thanam” (his words, not mine) to pull off such a film. You should see him in the scene where the holds in vomit as he sits before his boss; Mr.Bean would be proud. And that’s why the film works even better as a children’s movie. It has the warmth of a Pixar film where you don’t want even the evil diamond smuggler to get hurt.
Yet one wishes the film had been a tad less predictable. It’s not a densely packed film so scenes like the one where Anjanam’s boss gives him an important piece of paper shouldn’t have played out so expectedly. It’s much the same when Mekala gifts Anjanam some clothes to try on. After a point, the rat damaging one thing after another cannot be the only line of comedy in such a film. Certain gags feel a bit too long and even the quality of supporting actors, at least in a couple of cases, are a bother.
But these are forgivable in a film where a rat gets a better character arc than most villains in our films. It has its issues but a film that brings out the child in you can’t be all bad.