Cast: Vijay, Pooja Hedge, Selvaraghavan, Aparna das, Yogi Babu, Redin Kingsley
Beast is directed by Nelson. The earlier two films of Nelson made me realize that here is a filmmaker with a sense of style of his own. His earlier two films — Kolamaavu Kokila and Doctor — definitely told us that here is a filmmaker who seems to be in good control of his script, the kind of performances he wants and the kinds of compositions that he manages to bring about. He had a very quirky style of comedy, which really impressed a lot of us. It reminded me of two filmmakers. One of them is, of course, Buster Keaton, the master and another one is the French filmmaker Jacques Tati.
Both these filmmakers had ways of telling a story in which the characters took themselves very seriously, and went about their activities in ways that they were very involved in, but the camera, the filmmakers and we see it in very humorous ways. We see the ridiculousness of their activities, we see the funny side of their behaviour that is so unusual. It was something that reminded me of a wonderful filmmaker like Singeetam Srinivasa Rao who did the Kamal Haasan-starrer called Pushpak, in which the characters go through a lot of very serious episodes for themselves, but the audiences saw it as full of fun.
Nelson continues this tradition of Pushpak and brings his films closer to absurd drama than any kind of emotional realism. And I think that was his forte. Sadly, Beast watches the clash of two distinct pathways. There is Nelson's style and there is Vijay's repertoire. And Vijay's repertoire demanded a lot of bravado, four songs ranging from typical mass appeal Kuthu Paatu to very, very sentimental, romantic songs. His films must have great messages and a lot of family sentiment. Sadly, Beast is beaten at its own game.
First of all, choosing to stage almost an entire story in one location requires enormous planning, storyboarding and pre-visualization and visualization. And that has not happened. Instead, what you see is a quirky sense of humour, as demonstrated by Nelson versus Vijay's macho scenes. Audiences want Vijay to dominate the scenes, but Nelson has his own ways of putting in very, very side characters, they have no consequence at all to the story, but somehow have the best dialogues in the film.
Now this unsettles the film's progress in the story. If Nelson had some very quirky music styles in his earlier two films, this film is dominated by Anirudh's stereotypical music, high octane, high volume, low buzz, and loud sound, which you see in most mainstream films. If Nelson's earlier works had vibrant women characters, this film loses them all.
It was really sad to see a character like Pooja Hegde, who came in so powerful in the beginning dominating the scene, suddenly getting lost in the crowd. We have seen Vijay's earlier films, like Bigil, where he had given so much space to women. Ultimately, this film has sincerely no space for women at all.
So coming back to Beast, I thought there is a lot of introspection to be done for myself. And so what did I learn from this film? One thing I learned definitely is that doing a lot of earlier promos on varieties of social media helps push the film forward. In fact, I have never witnessed audiences sitting through the last item song in which they'd be walking away, where the credit titles roll. But here I saw audiences sitting and watching the 'Jolly O Gymkhana' song. It seems that they had been waiting for the song, thanks to all the social media that they have witnessed.
The second thing I learned was that Tamil cinema has now come to understand multiple languages as their staple diet. So this film has Hindi, Tamil, and English — all being spoken very frequently. In fact, I find it amazing that these so-called Pakistani characters coming into India speak Tamil. And you say "wow". In fact, there are sequences where English is dominating the whole thing. And when they speak Hindi, we do get Tamil subtitles. But it is very interesting to see that Tamil cinema is now willing to deal with other languages.
Last but not the least, I am sure a lot of terminal audiences would have left the film theatre to go and check in the dictionary – What is the real meaning of beast? I asked at least 100 Tamil people in the last week if they know the meaning of beast. They don't know the meaning. It is nice to go see a film with a title they don't even know about but they will go back and study English. So I think to that extent we have to credit these kinds of films for allowing literacy to grow, some way or the other. So if you are satisfied with the promos on YouTube and various social media of Beast, I think you should remain happy having seen them.