Cast: Vikram, Keerthy Suresh, Aishwarya Rajesh, Prabhu, Soori, Bobby Simha
Despite the general crudeness of a Hari production, the first Saamy was built on a solid masala foundation. Our extra-judicial dispensers of punishment are usually commoners, with the cops on their tail. But what if a cop turned vigilante, someone who pardons (and even encourages) lesser crimes like bribery so that he can focus on the bigger picture? Seen today, Saamy is certainly a product of its era, a time when Vivek's social-reform comedy was the rage and Vikram was meteorite-hot — and it's a self-contained film. An entire generation has been born between then and now, and when I heard the Molagapodiye number from Saamy 2, I wondered how many people would make the connect to the scene in the first film where Bhuvana (Trisha, who's now morphed into Aishwarya Rajesh) thinks Aaruchamy (Vikram) is a thief and plans a trap using chilly powder. When the teaser came out, Saamy 2 promised to be little more than a lazy rehash, with too-easy echoes — say,"Naan police illa… porukki" becoming "Naan saamy illa… bootham."
But surprisingly, the line isn't just a throwaway punch line. The sequel's conceit is that Aaruchamy's son Ram Saamy (Vikram) grew up in New Delhi, far away from home (Tirunelveli), far away from his father's legend. It's one of those Chosen One narratives — think Star Wars — where a very unheroic hero is resigned to a very uninteresting life (his relatives keep him in the dark) until he learns about the past and realises he is destined for great things. This is where the bootham line comes in. Ram was wrenched from his mother's womb by his dying father (it's like in our myths) — and this unnatural act connects father and son. Years later, a grown-up Ram will find himself unable to resist the call of khaki. He sets out to become an IAS officer. He ends up a cop. Even an accidental brush against a police uniform imbues him with transformative powers: man becomes god. It's truly a "Saamy padam."
Hari is hardly the filmmaker to pull this off. He takes a great masala idea and reduces it to a mass movie
The villain (Bobby Simha) is Ravana to the hero's Ram — that's literally his name. He's the son of the earlier film's antagonist (Kota Srinivasa Rao). He has two brothers (John Vijay and OAK Sundar, who looks startlingly like his father, OAK Thevar), a witch-like mother (Sudha Chandran, who never met an item of jewellery she didn't like), and a stylish MO for murder: he slits the wrists and throats of his victims. And the family's home is in… Sri Lanka. This is a cracker of a conceit for a sequel, not just a Singham-like installment that imagines new adventures (and casts new heroines) but an intergenerational myth where sons continue the wars of their fathers. There's just one small problem. Hari is hardly the filmmaker to pull this off. He takes a great masala idea and reduces it to a mass movie.
What could explain this filmmaker's inability to linger on a moment, such that even the scene where someone gets into a car and closes the door contains two jump cuts! (With the amount of chopping and splicing involved, I assume an editor who begins work on a Hari film looking like Anirudh ends the film looking like Salman Khan.) Maybe there's a deep-rooted psychological explanation. Maybe, as a child, every time Hari's parents called out his name, he heard it as "hurry" — maybe that scarred him forever. Cut to many years later, and this is how a Hari screenplay reads for the hero-introduction scene: Crowd gathers – soundtrack goes whoosh – whip-pan across mass of people to register size of crowd – various extras say their lines – split-edit those lines so that even before they end, the next image is on screen – soundtrack goes whoosh – hero cracks knuckles and flexes arms – wind blows and dry leaves swirl around – hero delivers a punch dialogue ("kattina pondattiya irundhalum vaadi podi nu pesa koodathu") – anonymous goon #1 flies across screen – more wind, more dry leaves – anonymous goon #2 flies across screen – soundtrack goes whoosh…
As a result, every single plot point is wasted. There's a great touch that Ram doesn't just have in him his father's genes, there's a bit of his mother in there too. (She wanted to become an IAS officer. That's his ambition, too.) Another touch has Ram gathering his father's old, greying colleagues for a mission. But none of this matters, none of this registers in the mind-numbing mix of Soori "comedy" (set to a refrain that goes "maan maan shaktiman / man man pokeman") — the scene with his Thiruvilayadal-style rapid fire Q and A is, again, a good idea badly executed — and romance with Keerthy Suresh, who plays the kind of girl who falls for a man when he slaps her. (Devi Sri Prasad delivers an ear worm in Adhiroobaney.) At least, she gets to do some reverse-stalking, going after the hero even when he says "no". In this universe, I guess that counts as progress. We keep waiting for the occasional bits of inspiration, like a smartphone being used for a killing. This scene, too, lasts just a couple of seconds — but thankfully, that's all it needs.
What kept me watching was Vikram's performance. After a long time, here, he's alert, alive
What kept me watching was Vikram's performance. In his mass outings of late (Sketch or 10 Enradhukulla…), he seemed switched off, barely concealing his contempt for these films that were just a means to make money and stay visible. After a long time, here, he's alert, alive. And after a long time, he doesn't oversell moments, like he did in Ai, acting with every fibre of his being (and then borrowing a few fibres from the being next to him). His emotion in the scene where a pregnant woman is rushed to a hospital — she reminds him of his mother — is just enough, just right. I can't wait to see him in Dhruva Natchatiram, but I also wish someone would write a solid masala movie for him, something with epic overtones. Maybe it's time to team up with the younger crop of filmmakers? He'll give them box-office assurance. They may give him the movies he deserves.