Cast: Sasikumar, Gayathrie, Bharathiraja
Kennedy Club, which is about an underdog team of female kabaddi players, is yet another disappointment from Suseenthiran. (The title is the name of the team.) Oh, if you want to set the bar really low, you can find things to like. You could say: Okay, I didn’t mind the guy who’s the comic relief, unable to consummate his marriage because his wife takes off to New Delhi to play a tournament. You could say: It’s nice to see a sport being shown as a way out of poverty for the daughters of daily-wage labourers. You could say: Phew, the film is just 120 minutes. But really, the one thing you keep saying is this: Is Suseenthiran a major filmmaker or not? Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu and Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer suggest that he is one of our best, but… the rest?
Every aspect of Kennedy Club is weighted down with indifference. The writing can barely bring itself to imbue shades into the characters. Apart from poverty, there’s nothing that makes these girls stand out—no specifics, no quirks of character (unless you call “being hungry” a trait). The kabaddi matches are hyper-edited to give a sense of (false) excitement—but we don’t get interesting manoeuvres and the spatial choreography is non-existent. (See how deeply, how thrillingly Dangal took us into a sport as unfamiliar as wrestling.) The coaches (the father and son played by Bharathiraja and M Sasikumar) don’t get one fresh or interesting thing to say—and for some reason, we get a constant voiceover narration, over and above the events being shown. This film loves its redundancies. A little after we see a girl attempting suicide by consuming pesticide, Sasikumar is told, “Indian team la select aagalennu Vidya marundhu kudichittaa.” Translation: In case you were Whatsapping through the really elaborate scene we just showed, here’s the nutshell version.
The worst aspect is probably the villain of the piece, the coach-turned-official played by Murli Sharma. How do we know he’s crooked? Because he gets a call, in the middle of a match, asking him to ensure his team loses, and he asks the man at the other end of the line: “I’ll get that posting, right?” And much later, when he tempts the Sasikumar character with a bribe, we are meant to think the latter has sold out. Suseenthiran must think we have never seen a Tamil movie. Soori makes a guest appearance as a “parotta” fan who’s mistaken for the “Baroda” coach. I’ll spare you the details. A cheerfully hammy Bharathiraja gets to bark angry things like “Shaddup!” and he brings down a regime of corruption with one casual chat with a minister. These are just plot points, a basic template. They still need to be fleshed out into scenes, into a screenplay. But who’s going to take the effort as long as we keep patting films on the back for the “messages” they carry. We’ve transformed movies into mailmen.