Naai Sekar — not to be confused with Vadivelu’s Naai Sekar Returns — begins with a disclaimer. It politely asks you not to look for “logic” in this “fantasy comedy.” The nice person that I am, I obliged. Even with that, I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of dog poop that was about to be thrown at my face.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Naai Sekar is the story of Sekar (Sathish), a part-time DSLR-wielding photographer and a full-time IT employee, who works at what looks like an alien species’ imagination of what software companies look like. An excruciating few minutes into the film, he is bitten by a dog and turns into a dog-man, as in a person in whom qualities of a dog come and go sporadically (the dog turns into a man-dog too, by the way). How they finally go back to being man and dog forms the rest of the film.
I must admit that calling this a “film” itself takes me a lot of effort because Naai Sekar barely tries. It draws boulders of ideas from the Tamil cinema past. At the one end, the mad scientist who enables this man-dog-exchange, is a Rajinikanth fan, naming his pets and projects after the actor’s films. At the other end, Manobala just plays the same role — of a loserly creep — that he’s played a gazillion times before. Somewhere in the middle is composer Ganesh, of Shankar-Ganesh, plays a singing villain to unconvincing effect.
To be clear, this isn’t pastiche, Naai Sekar isn’t paying tribute. It is grasping at straws to fill its dark void of ideas. Like its title, for instance. This film has nothing to do with the original Naai Sekar, Vadivelu’s character from Thalai Nagaram. So, technically, this film could have been Naai Sundar or Naai Shankar. It isn’t. Because that would need some originality. Something that’s more than a shadow of an idea. Something that the film can call its own. Naai Sekar has none of that.
So, when Naai Sekar calls itself a fantasy comedy, I wonder if the comedic nature of the film is the fantasy here. Because there is barely a joke and absolutely none you didn’t see coming. The puns and wordplay are tired — naai madhiri velai paakkaran (he toils like a dog) or naan naai da (I’m a dog) quickly turn pointless. When the writers escalate it, it stinks. Take for example the climax scene where Sekar — in his zone as a dog — bites the villain’s crotch. His cronies lose their mind, screaming “sattaiya vidra sattaiya vidra” (let his shirt go), to which another crony responds — come on, dear reader, you know where this is going — “avan kadichirukkardhu sattaiya illada ko….hahaha” (it’s not the shirt he’s grabbed, but the balls).
If comedy is a trainwreck, the screenplay is a disaster. I found myself anticipating with great hope that every frame with Sathish and some gap on the right be the interval block. It took a solid fifteen minutes for the interval to really come. Scene after scene is filled with tiresome tropes. The moment Pooja (Pavithra Lakshmi) finds out that Sekar is a photographer, she asks him to do a “photo shoot” for her. She falls in love with him because he’s a decent guy who does the bare minimum (biting her father later doesn’t count as indecent, apparently). There are elaborate scenes about performance appraisals that can only be termed the opposite of funny. Seeman and Livingston as stupid cops look tired.
The film is so unimaginative that the climax scenes where the dog saves the day are choreographed as if the dog is human. You know, the dog drives a police jeep, navigates with Google maps, it punches people, fights like a Tamil cinema hero etc. You’re supposed to accept that it’s actually a man-dog and not look for logic. I didn’t. But Naai Sekar does nothing to make you suspend your disbelief. It keeps reminding you how lazy it is, while demanding you indulge it.
The only thing going for the film is that Sathish tries. He looks and acts the part. He pees on an electric pole with his leg hoisted up. He bites humans, multiple times. He barks in a professional meeting. He grabs his foot and dances all over the floor. It is as if Sathish truly believes that Naai Sekar is his ticket to the big league. At one point, I found myself rooting for him — not Sekar, I mean Sathish. But, none of that redeems the colossal disappointment that is Naai Sekar.