Director: Vijay Antony
Cast: Vijay Antony, Radha Ravi, Y G Mahendran
1. For those of us who are big fans of the first Pichaikkaran (2016), it’s not impossible to imagine a worthy sequel for a film based on one simple yet clever one-liner. This was something along the lines of a rich son who has to live the life of a beggar to save his mother’s life. In the absence of such clarity, the basic plot of Pichaikkaran 2 can be best described as the events that follow a beggar when he wakes one day in the body of a billionaire.
2. And not just any billionaire. The titular Pichaikkaran wakes up one day as the 7th richest Indian ever with a net worth of over 1 lakh crores! This makes him so rich that one phone call to the CM can bring about a change in the State’s politics. This also makes him so rich that he can hire Rolex himself to tell him what time it is. How he ends up in the body of a billionaire is a result of some fun convenient writing but the ridiculousness of it all, makes it worth it.
3. Which means that we have to buy into the logic that a billionaire’s brain can get transplanted into the body of a nobody. Or more interestingly, a poor man’s brain in a billionaire’s body is where the campy, trashy premise starts at.
4. But what does the writer, director, actor, music director and producer of the film do with this crazy setup? Not much to be honest. This idea for a body-swapping drama doesn’t really push its wackiness far enough and instead settles for a safe space along the lines of a film like Shankar’s Sivaji (2007).
5. Despite the option to develop this idea into a film like Billa (2007), Salman’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015) or the classic John Woo cop-drama Face-Off (1997), Pichaikkaran turns into a soapy melodrama that deviates too much from its campy genesis.
6. This is partly due to the way it tries to merge the sister sentiment into this one-liner. If the first film benefitted greatly from a son’s undying love for his mother, so much so that he would do anything for her, the new film pushes our buttons a little too much. The result is a film in which the thangachi is invoked so often that we don’t care if she or her brother survives.
7. It is here that the film devolves into another generic story with the last half hour turning into a full-fledged courtroom drama. A biggish deviation into a concept called “anti bikili” takes the film securely into WTF levels of ridiculousness. But because we’ve switched off by then, even this bit of over-the-top goodness fails to connect anymore.
8. Another major annoyance is caused by the severe shortage of co-actors. Actors like Yogi Babu come and go and you can almost feel the makers trying to use him in as many scenes as possible given his limited time. Women have nothing else to do either except to milk the sister sentiment or to remain the annoying girlfriend who does not understand the complicated life of her billionaire lover. The less said about the hammy villains the better.
9. Yet what remained the most fun for the viewer is how the film has used elaborate spells of VFX and green screens for seemingly regular scenes. Agreed that it costs a lot of money to show the everyday life of a billionaire but the CG goes so overboard that you feel like you’re playing a demo version of a video game from the early 2000s. Apart from massive mansions, exploding planes and a “mall for the poor”, clunky CG is used to show even the billionaire’s fleet of SUVs, a set of skyscrapers in Dubai and a cyberpunk version of Chennai.
10. Finally, though, the one image that will never leave you is the way the same VFX has been used to create the second Vijay Antony character. He is the one that is meant to look poorer so we get a virtual imposter that is both darker and infinitely odd looking. With so much work that has gone in, Virtual Vijay is what the actor would have looked like if he had played a significant character in Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiyaan. Without the cleverness of its first part and without the cringe benefits of a film like Legend, Pichaikkaran is, oddly, a weird mix of a harmless social fantasy and VFX-heavy cop-out without the conviction to take its weird ideas to its final resting place.