Director: Vijay Milton
Cast: Bharath Seeni, Esakki Barath, Vinoth, Samuthirakani, Subiksha
A sequel usually picks up where the earlier film left off, or catches up with the same set of characters a few years later. Vijay Milton's Goli Soda 2 is different – similar enough to belong to the world of Goli Soda, but dissimilar enough to stand on its own. You don't need to have seen Part 1 to follow the story. But then, you'd miss the parallels. If Part 1 was about four teenagers in Koyambedu, the sequel revolves around three North Madras twentysomethings: Maaran (Bharath Seeni), Oli (Esakki Barath) and Shiva (Vinoth). If Part 1 had a maternal figure in Aachi (Sujatha Sivakumar), Part 2 has a paternal figure in Nadesan (a dignified Samuthirakani), who wears a neck brace and manages a small pharmacy. (He knows each of the young men, but they don't know one another.) Samuthirakani, incidentally, dubbed for the villain (Madhusudhan Rao) in Part 1, so he binds the two films tighter.
Part 2, meanwhile, gives us three villains, one each for Maaran, Oli and Shiva. The plot kicks off with Nadesan being questioned by the police. (Gautham Vasudev Menon cameos as a cop named – wait for it! – Raghavan, though there's woefully no information on whether he possesses an instinct.) The charge? Three men are missing. And we cut to a flashback. Shiva drives an auto and dreams of driving a cab. Oli works in a mess (if you remember, the kids in Part 1 set up a small eatery) and plays basketball. Maaran, who is in love with Inba (Subiksha), wants to leave a criminal gang and begin life afresh. Their tracks race by like an express train. Like Goli Soda, the sequel is suffused with an energetic, documentary-like vibe (Vijay Milton's hand-held shots are, at times, millimetres away from an actor's face), and filled with natural light. Not a single image appears to have been retouched during post-production. It's like CCTV footage, but framed with an artist's eye.
Vijay Milton's Goli Soda 2 is different – similar enough to belong to the world of Goli Soda, but dissimilar enough to stand on its own. You don't need to have seen Part 1 to follow the story. But then, you'd miss the parallels.
Deepak, the editor, chips in with showy flair. I am not usually a fan of gimmicky transitions, but they serve this story well. As the three narrative tracks begin to converge, the pace picks up. The breathless cutting makes the dissolves look like the shot isn't transitioning to the next one so much as being elbowed away by it, impatiently. Like the characters, the frames burst with youth. Part 2 carries over another stylistic signature from Part 1. The writing cuts away from events midway, and when we see the remainder of the event, it's not what we thought happened. And remember the twist with the villain in the climax of Part 1? That's reheated and served – with a twist.
The first half is pretty good. Despite composer Achu Rajamani's tendency to overscore, the story beats aren't oversold. There's a charming, low-key quality to the way the screenplay builds. Take the relationship between Nadesan and Shiva's mother (Rekha). Shiva calls Nadesan home to take a look at her when she sprains her leg and refuses to see a doctor, and there's a mild sense of something in the way Nadesan hesitates with the syringe and the way Shiva's mother pulls her sari over her shoulder just a wee bit more. Even the comedy in the scene where Inba's mother (Rohini) inspects Maaran's house is more a smiley than ROFL. The only annoyances are the mild sermons. When Nadesan takes Shiva to the bank for a loan, the officer sneers at this auto driver's ambitions. "Society is like a machine," he says. "And you are a cog. You shouldn't dream of becoming a wheel." I wanted to stuff that sentence down his throat.
Nadesan adds his bit, a little later, boozing on his terrace to the accompaniment of Ilayaraja songs. "If you grab the opportunity when life gives it to you, you can be a mudhalali (boss), else you end up someone else's thozhilali (slave)." But the animated filmmaking cuts through this dead air. The song is Rojavai thalaatum thendral. The next scene, a younger Nadesan is seen in front of a poster of the film the song is from, Ninaivellam Nithya. Those aren't just songs he's listening to. This is the what-could-have-been soundtrack of his life. The three young men, however, aren't content to lie low and think, later, about what could have been. They want to carpe the effing diem, and Goli Soda 2 builds to a sensational intermission point. Shiva clashes with a councillor (Saravana Subbaiah). Oli's wedding with Mathi (Krisha Kurup; the falling-in-love portions are smooth, if not particularly inspired) in a police station is interrupted by a caste-obsessed gangster, who asks the Muslim cop overseeing the proceedings, "Police sattaiya tight-aa pottaa Singam-nu nenappaa?" And Maaran is ensnared in his former boss's (Thillai, played by Chemban Vinod Jose) web.
Then we get to the second half, and a bizarre tone change awaits us. It looks like the editor mistakenly swapped footage with a Hari movie. The plot develops a mind of its own, veering off into a suicide attempt, a kidnapping, murder… The score grows louder, and the characters scream as though trying to be heard over a fighter jet preparing to take off. Their motivations, too, become iffy – they do things because the screenplay wants them to. Like Part 1, the crux is adayaalam, the identity that the underprivileged crave, a basic need that their oppressors withhold. "Who are you to prevent me from getting ahead in life?" is the rage that drives both sets of characters. But the kids in the earlier film plugged you into their desperation. Film logic dictated that they would triumph over the villain, but looking at their barely-moustached faces, you weren't sure how. Here, Shiva, Maaran and Oli seem to be auditioning to be extras in a mega action sequence in a Marvel movie. As they fly through the air, the film sinks like a stone.