Cast: Sasikumar, Anjali, Athulya Ravi
Back in the late 2000s, Naadodigal, along with films such as Subramaniapuram and Paruthiveeran, heralded what was briefly called the Tamil new wave. Apart from the Madurai setting, these films were genuinely bold in their theme and treatment, and introduced Tamil cinema to a whole bunch of outsiders. It’s been 11 years since the release of Naadodigal, and a lot of blood has since flowed into the Thamirabharani. Tamil cinema and its audience too has changed, but Samuthirakani, the director of Naadodigal 2, refuses to take note. He still doesn’t realise that the State and its people are not going to improve just by listening to sermons disguised as movies.
Instead of dialogues or conversations, we get speeches. The topics could be anything. The righteous Karunakaran (Sasikumar) speaks about wasteful weddings, fat dowries, divisive politicians, the importance of social service and more, to the point where he’s just one scene away from speaking directly to the audience to tell us things like ‘look both ways before crossing’, ‘never speak to strangers’ and ‘wash your hands before you eat’.
We also get a respectable subplot involving a transwoman who works hard to become a sub-inspector. But this is followed by a badly staged scene where she immediately inspires other transwomen to look for jobs instead of resorting to begging. The film also discusses the concept of seeking a woman’s consent from a completely new and rooted angle, but even this topic is addressed through one quick dialogue, without any kind of reflection or depth. If a film’s political correctness alone could make it great, Naadodigal 2 would have been our Citizen Kane.
And for a sequel, it’s really surprising to see this film wait until the last few minutes of the first half to even attempt the themes and tropes that made the first film great. So, even here, what we eventually get to is the story of two star-crossed lovers who need the support of some well-intentioned people to bring them together. But before this, we get three songs revolving around Karunakaran and gang trying to set up their own political party.
The main issue the film’s talking about is caste and what it can do to people. The film looks at interesting angles, like the mindset of the parents even as their daughter is being targeted by family members in the name of honour. But intention is very different from execution, and you can constantly catch yourself making things up as you go along to understand how good all this could have been. Unlike the first part, there are no bold choices and very few situations where we feel the tension of what’s at stake. In the director’s hurry to cover as many issues plaguing society as he can, it seems like he forgot to make a film.