Language: Tamil

Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Nayanthara, Yogi Babu, Radhikaa Sarathkumar

Director: M. Rajesh

A lot of effort seems to have gone in to make Mr.Local, directed by M. Rajesh, seem current and modern. Nayanthara, who plays a localised Ekta Kapoor in the film, is seen wearing the hippest of clothes. In the film’s hero introduction song, we see extras sporting uniforms of new-age food delivery apps such as Swiggy, Zomato and Über Eats. And the jokes, which almost always reference something from pop culture, use lines from movies as recent as Ajith’s Viswasam. Yet why is the film’s core ideas stuck in stone-age?

Like how the film opens with Manohar (Sivakarthikeyan trying his best) explaining how a man’s girlfriend is his first enemy. And when the character played by Thambi Ramaiah threatens a soap opera star with dire consequences, he says amma aakiduven adutha episode la (I’ll make you play a mother in the next episode). Even #MeToo is not spared, with one of the film’s most elaborate gags being wordplay associated with how Manohar “touches” (kai vechutte) Keerthana Vasudevan (Nayanthara). Also, when Keerthana takes over the steering wheel from Manohar, the latter jokes about how people will assume that the “man” of the house doesn’t know how to drive. Did I miss something or is this supposed to be a period film, set it WTF century?

Expecting political correctness from Rajesh is like expecting a happy ending (no pun intended) from Bala but can’t we expect at least a few jokes to land? Shouldn’t the jokes at least offend us in new ways? Guess that’s too much to expect from another tiring iteration of the Taming Of The Shrew. To be fair, it’s not like we’d expected anything different from the trailers and the songs. But when an antagonising character looks at Keerthana and says “I hate feminists”, Mr.Local starts becoming meta, because until then the film seems to hate feminists too. Which is why I’m totally on the fence about Nayanthara’s character. Can the same character be both the villain and the lover of the same film? Because a lot of effort has gone in to show how unreasonable and ruthless she is to the point where we even sympathise with Manohar. Yet when the film switches lanes to show Manohar falling for Keerthana, it’s so out of the blue that it feels random. It makes no sense why Manohar would be attracted to someone whose idea of revenge involves buying a company, just so she can fire her enemy and everyone close to him. It’s much the same even when you look at the story from Keerthana’s point of view. Given how the initial accident between Keerthana and Manohar is neither of their faults, Manohar too comes across as particularly egoistic and petty.Which is why the film feels like its going nowhere. Why would we care about either of these characters? Why are they both so inherently unlikable?

I suppose the film gets a lot more tolerable whenever Yogi Babu gets some screentime but it’s extremely tiring to keep listening to Sivakarthikeyan refer to his buddies as either ‘darling’ or ‘baby’. Yeah and what’s up with Robo Shankar and the whole adultery angle? What’s worse are the songs and their placement, especially in the second half, which lacks any sort of drama. Even the way the film attempts a bit of wokeness in the later half is too little too late. And by then we’re too confused about where we stand on the film’s characters anyway. But hey, at least this film spares us from a few signature Rajesh TASMAC scenes given Sivakarthikeyan’s clean image. But if that is your only take away from a really long movie, then you’re  probably running to the TASMAC anyway.

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