Cast: Nicky Sundram, Charle, Aishwarya Rajesh, Kishore
Director: SA Bhaskaran
Mei, directed by SA Bhaskaran, does a good job of double-guessing what the audience might be thinking when they see Nicky Sundaram, the film’s lead for the first time. He plays Abhi, an American of Indian origin, a house surgeon, who returns to India after a personal tragedy. His ‘out-of-placeness’ is used to his advantage in the way the film gets characters around him to poke fun at his “whiteness”, his height and his accent, even before we do. And because he’s supposed to be depressed, he also doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting… at least in terms of emotions (though he seems perfectly capable of lifting a small elephant). So that problem is solved pretty early on.
But the film’s not as efficient at hiding some of its other shortcomings. Like the whole meet-cute with Aishwarya Rajesh. They run into each other by chance when Abhi stops his car to help Uthara (Aishwarya Rajesh) take an injured man (played by Charle) to the hospital. Names and numbers don’t get exchanged so it’s quite unlikely that they too meet again in a city as big as Chennai. But on the next day, when she just happens to go to a temple to find someone who looks like a foreigner, there he is again, being a samathu payyan. Let’s say we give them the benefit of the doubt this one time. But it’s the same thing all over again when she just happens to visit a medical shop (she’s a medical representative) and finds that he’s there too. And then we also get the most awkward proposal scenes you will ever see. I mean is this film trying to be the absolute opposite of Kadhal Kottai?
Which is a shame because the film really has an interesting story to tell. A girl disappears mysteriously one night leaving no clues behind. Her father (Charle) approaches the police but they do little to find her. And when Abhi’s colleague dies under mysterious conditions in a hospital that’s connected to the missing girl, it sets off a whole chain of events. And when Abhi himself is pushed into this mess, with the whole city on the lookout for him, he’s practically trapped.
Now this would have been a wonderful situation to actually make use of the Aishwarya Rajesh’s character. Given the fact that Abhi cannot really move around, Aishwarya could have been the one doing all the investigation. But no, the film isn’t interested in doing that because there are multiple scene where Abhi can be seen moving around the city either in an auto or in his as though nothing has happened. I mean you can buy this if he was the kind of guy you’d see around. Don’t tell me that he can go incognito in Chennai when the film itself spends a good half hour talking about how he sticks out.
But what’s most disappointing is how little the film does with its material. Even in the parts where the writing is actually good, the film struggles to really translate that into a visual language. Every major twist and every turn the script takes is just narrated to us, not shown. There are entire stretches where it feels like you would not miss out on anything, even if you sat there with your eyes closed. Which I why I get the feeling that it would have been a lot more fun to just listen to film’s narration rather than seeing it on screen. The fact that the film is still somehow engaging is testament to how good this film could really have been.