Director: Sathish Selvakumar
Cast: G V Prakash Kumar, Divyabharathi, Bagavathi Perumal,
About an hour into the film, Subbu (Divyabharathi) tells Darling (G. V. Prakash Kumar) that she is tired from sickness and hospital visits. She asks him to make her something to eat. Darling gives her an all-knowing smirk, walks into the kitchen and starts grating a plateful of coconut. And makes barfi. If you're wondering what kind of silly person will make coconut barfi for a hungry woman recovering from sickness, you will soon realise that it is the least worrying of the myriad questions you'll have after watching Sathish Selvakumar's debut film Bachelor.
Bachelor is the story of a dozen or so men, who get their panties in a twist trying to force an unassuming young woman to abort her twins.
The film begins with a painstakingly detailed introduction of Darling. He is an arrogant, careless, irresponsible drunk, who shows no respect for his friends, who give him physical and emotional space in their lives. He is an incompetent Arjun Reddy. One day, he meets Subbu at a friend's party and falls in lust with her. He manipulates a friend — who is also Subbu's flatmate — to take him in as her flatmate. He lives in perpetual hope of sleeping with her. He even makes an elaborate ruse to buy a condom and everything. One day, she falls sick. In a Visu film-level imaginative twist, he makes her kanji, she is attracted to him and they have sex.
Unexpectedly, Subbu becomes pregnant. Darling wants her to abort that very instant. When she refuses, he goes nuts. His friends come to his rescue, trying to talk Subbu into abortion because "his family will be heartbroken." A row ensues.
She leaves the city and goes back to Chennai, to her sister's house. Her brother-in-law is a criminal lawyer, who foists a domestic violence case on Darling and his family, faking documents to prove their marriage. The case gets serious, Darling's entire family is thrown in disarray — his sister, mother and brother are remanded to custody. To save himself, Darling claims impotency. The court asks for proof. The aforementioned dozen men go around all of Chennai and Pondicherry to prove his impotence (or erectile dysfunction, I couldn't tell). They get proof, Subbu withdraws the case and shows him the middle finger, literally. At the end of a film that lasted nearly three hours, we leave wondering what just hit us.
The biggest problem with Bachelor is that it is self-aware. In that, the film knows and understands that Darling is an abusive, arrogant and selfish chap. Yet, it can't stop being in awe of him. It is stuck in a Stockholm syndrome with its protagonist. There are barely any frames where we don't see Darling, so many of them showing him making a puppy face. The cinematographer, Theni Eswar, is generous with slow-motion shots, building him up as the hero, while Sidhu Kumar's background score pumps up adrenaline further.
It is so sympathetic of the abuser that there are long lingering scenes showing his plight, while he is the one making everyone's life miserable. In contrast, we barely see, hear or understand anything about Subbu. She gets no backstory, her family is one-dimensional, her emotional journey is unexplored.
To his credit, G V Prakash Kumar does a convincing job as Darling, his selfishness and lust sparkling in his eyes. Even when his Coimbatore accent feels off, he is believable as the small-town boy overwhelmed by the big city's ways. But, in choosing the point of view that it does, Bachelor is hellbent on showing Darling as the poor misguided child. It wants us to feel bad for the asshole and empathise with him.
So much so that in a film about heterosexual relationships, sexual health, living in, pregnancy, abortion and domestic violence law, we only hear men talk — every single one of them making excuses for him. When Darling and his coterie are not discussing what Subbu should do, her brother-in-law is. He snatches her phone and uses information in it against her because Darling once told him off. In absolutely no time, the film turns into a dick-measuring contest between Darling and her brother-in-law.
Speaking of the male sexual organ, Bachelor makes a big deal of the sex. Darling can't stop thinking about it nor talking about it. He gets pissed one day when Subbu's friends come home and he can't have sex in the house. So, they move to their car, parked in the lot in their building. The film wants to show us that pre-marital sex is common, but it can't resist making a big giggly deal out of it.
On the other hand, most of the second half is crass humour about impotence. At this point, there is a ridiculous tonal shift. Even as each individual is saying that they are scared for their reputation, future, career etc., they are making juvenile jokes. There is an elaborate sequence with a charlatan called "Saami" (Mysskin), who is supposed to make Darling impotent for six months. Mysskin, for good measure, makes jokes about optimism and insanity.
The entire sequence is flippant laying bare the inconsistencies within the narrative. Bachelor wants us to see how Subbu's brother-in-law is abusing the prevention of domestic violence law — a grossly irresponsible representation in itself — while also laughing at Darling's reluctance to turn impotent to save himself. This whole sequence is in perfect parallel with Munishkanth's hairdo, his wig sporadically appearing with no apparent trend.
In a story like Bachelor, Sathish Selvakumar had the opportunity to explore what it means to be in modern relationships. He flounders it by making yet another film about an abusive man, demanding that we pay empathetic attention to his arrogant ways. Without a persistent voice to balance the testosterone overdose, Bachelor is vacuous at best, and downright boring at its worst.