Director: N. Lingusamy
Cast: Vishal, Keerthi Suresh, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar
There’s a Thevar Magan hangover in N Lingusamy’s Sandakozhi 2 (Fightercock). Balu (Vishal) strides into southern Tamil Nadu the way the Kamal Haasan character did in the earlier film — only, Balu takes a flight, and he slips past the people who’ve gathered outside, with drums and trumpets. Balu’s father, Durai (Rajkiran), is a Sivaji Ganesan-like headman. A song throws up a reference to “mukkulathor”, and a local festival plays a major part in the proceedings. And the heroine, Sembaruthi (Keerthy Suresh), gets to spoof the line: “Poi pulla kuttigala padikka vainga da.” Lingusamy is on to something here. He isn’t exactly remaking Bharathan’s film, for Balu doesn’t want to run back to wherever he’s from. He likes the heat and dust of his hometown, so on the way from the airport, he does “mass” things like switch off the AC and lower the windows. He isn’t asked to choose between two women either. All Lingusamy does is transform the broad beats of a classic drama into a masala entertainer.
The twist is that the villain is a woman, Pechi (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar). The character is terribly underwritten. She’s a widow who wants revenge. She keeps sending goons to do the deed. They fail. She glares and yells at them. Rinse. Repeat. With good writing, Pechi could have really become something — for even here, she gets one of the most inventive masala moments I have seen in a while. It’s a bit regressive, and it involves the removal of the thali she’s been refusing to remove — but I’m just talking about the writing, the imagination in the scene. Had the rest of the film been written this way, Sandakozhi 2 might have been the Thevar Magan of potboilers. Still, I liked it that Pechi isn’t like Padayappa’s Neelambari, all schemes and talk. She brandishes a sickle and gets into the thick of action. She’s the one the title comes from.
Sandakozhi 2 isn’t unwatchable. Is that a compliment? The charade around Durai’s health has its moments. There’s a lot of flavourful dialogue (S Ramakrishnan, Brinda Sarathy). I laughed after one of Pechi’s men gives her a status report about the killing she’s ordered, that there’s still one man standing. She yells, “Kurukka kurukka vandhu kanakku sollaadhe. Muzhusa senjittu vaa.” No, you don’t need the translation. It isn’t about what she says. It’s the how. In comparison, the nameplate outside Sembaruthi’s door just says “Cute Heroine.” What happened to her predecessor, played by Meera Jasmine? The strains of ‘Dhavani Potta Deepavali’ drown out whatever tragic story Durai narrates, but the real story is that Meera Jasmine is no longer a viable heroine, while Keerthy Suresh is. The hens keep changing in Tamil cinema, but the cock stays the same.