Gulu Gulu Movie Review: Madcap Spoof Film That Doesn’t Realise Its Potential, Film Companion

Cast: Santhanam, Athulya Chandra, Pradeep Singh Rawat

Director: Rathna Kumar

Thamizh Padam designed a story that was a string of spoofs, and Enakku Innoru Per Irukku infused spoofs within its own story – both these films stuck to their genre and brand of comedy throughout the narrative. But Gulu Gulu is a rather madcap entry to Tamil cinema’s spoof-verse. It stands apart for how it tries to transcend genres while parodying alongside serious messaging. But for the most part, it isn’t successful in its attempt.

Rathna Kumar’s third feature is almost as unpredictable as his filmography. It’s about a character named Gulu Bhai who personifies the search engine his name is derived from (Google). You never know what you’re going to find while spending time with him. His nature to help causes both prosperity and adversity. It’s an ingenious idea of a character, but the film seems impressed at this sapling of an idea and doesn’t quite flesh it enough to be affecting.

Gulu is designed as a passive protagonist whose presence will transform those around him, while he doesn’t go through much of a change himself. He also lives every day like his last, so he’ll make sure he’s helpful enough to fellow humans at the drop of a hat. But that he doesn’t cause much of a change across the band of interesting people he interacts with, is what lessens his impression as a character.

Santhanam has already done his fair share of parodies as a comedian, and he gets to partake in the same as a distinct character here. But he doesn’t quite bring much excitement to the table as a performer. The deadpan delivery of his Amazon-forest sob-story works, while the weight in the politics of language that he addresses, is barely touching. The funniest bits of his are the ones that look and sound like a spoof of KGF, which again isn’t surprising since he’s so accustomed to doing cosplay parodies.

 

There’s prominent critiquing of the members of the ruling class going on in the film, with digs aimed at power-hungry cops, caste-flaunting house owners, and patriarchal fathers. The most effective attempts at social commentary come from the female characters. Vadivu exposing her father’s inability to differentiate between consensual and non-consensual exposure of her body, is quite a surprising change in a culture where a father-condemning-daughter joke is usually aimed to play at the male gallery. Matilda’s scathing comment about how her friend’s romantic desperation is no less perverted than an abuser makes for another complex point raised to good effect. But these instances do leave me wondering if they’d have at least registered the message better with a satirical tone rather than switching to a realistic one.

Vadivu is also the only character who gets a pronounced arc in the film, and that makes one wonder about the potential of the script had there been more arcs within the narrative, especially ones enabled by Gulu. George Maryan’s character transforms over a momentary trauma flashback, which is respectful of the audience by telling his backstory in a flash of a second, but the timing of it is so last-moment that it doesn’t provide the intended emotional high.

Miser boomer kidnappers, Kuriyeedu Kumaru, a PUB-G addict gangster – these make for comedy gold, but they work better as short sketches than as characters in this wild-goose-chase narrative. There are absolutely absurd situations too, from the gun-wielding Chinese gamers to the stretch involving a pay-and-use toilet. But the originality of these absurdities isn’t felt in the shipping tanker yard climax that’s as generic as one could get, even if it’s meant to be read as a spoof. It gets numbing when we have a flame-thrower, lightsabers, a zombie, and wolverine claws, all thrown into a single set-piece that’s trying very hard to be random. The most memorable beat where a gag truly earns its presence comes at the interval, where we first see a parody of the “mass” group walk, only to return to an actual “mass” moment of the same walk, after a successful action block.

Rathna Kumar crowds the narrative with so many characters, that the time needed to flesh out and sustain all these moving parts becomes its undoing, in spite of their funny designs. It doesn’t help that he continues to introduce new people in the chase even as it approaches its final moments. The film doesn’t expand on the emotional potential of its protagonist, ultimately losing Gulu and his politics to a lesser plot surrounding a basic gangster chase.

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