Cast: Natarajan Subramaniam, Ruhi Singh, Arjunan, Sharath Lohitashwa, Atul Kulkarni, Ramdoss, Nikita Thukral, Pooja Bisht, Sumann
Kollywood seems to have run out of star prefixes coined from various combinations of “Ilaya,” “Super,” “Ultimate,” “Power,” and so forth. Natarajan ‘Natty’ Subramaniam’s title card in Bongu (Fraud), directed by Taj, refers to him as “Rare Piece.” It’s fun imagining scenarios where not-yet-stars start inventing nicks from their earlier films (Vijay Antony as ‘Screen Saithan’ anyone?), because you need something to occupy yourself with during this phenomenally dull caper movie, about a gang of thieves (good-hearted, naturally) targeting a big shot (Sharath Lohitashwa) with a Rolls Royce.
The trashy premise isn’t bad. But this is what bothered me. In the Ocean’s Eleven movies, everyone’s a crook, out to screw someone over. What “softens” them is their charm, the star wattage. We know these men are bad news, but they’re so smart, so clever, so good with retorts that we brush aside this badness for a while and cheer them on as they set out to nail the villain, who’s really bad. Here, Deva (Rare Piece, possibly hoping for a Sathuranga Vettai encore) and his cohorts are softened through the inevitable flashback, and the buy-in is harder. The film doesn’t make us feel they’ve been hurt enough to make the hop-step-jump to a life of crime. How did they acquire the skills? The nerves?
But the lack of psychological detailing is the least of Bongu’s problems. The one good thing is that the heroine, Janani (Ruhi Singh), isn’t the conventional love interest. (Or maybe she was, and I’d tuned out by then.) The rest of the film is a noisy mishmash of bad jokes (count the number of times Deva puns on the name Mani; because he likes… money) and wannabe attempts at virtuosity, with split screens and a camera zooming into a watch face and even an animated stretch. Look, I shouldn’t complain. The problem with Tamil cinema today is that most directors don’t try enough. But to bridge the gap between concept and execution takes… a rare piece.
Watch the trailer of Bongu here: