Prince Review: A Low Risk, Low Rewards Comedy With Moments Of Inspired ‘Mokkai’

It’s a sort of manic conviction that makes Prince tolerable, even when nothing’s going for it
Prince Review: A Low Risk, Low Rewards Comedy With Moments Of Inspired ‘Mokkai’

Director: Anudeep KV

Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Maria Ryaboshapka, Sathyaraj

It might be a long shot to call Anudeep KV’s Jathi Ratnalu a comedy classic, but it had several inventive stretches where it married clever comic writing with a bucketload of pristine randomness. Which other word can you use to describe a film made with so much conviction that they believed they could pull off a five-minute-long gag where its protagonists discuss nothing else apart from the first man in their village to wear a “jeans pant”? Parts of Sivakarthikeyan’s Prince borrows generously from the same part of Anudeep’s brain that seeks poetry in the inane. Get a load of a similar stretch in Prince in which an entire sketch revolves around the Tamil word for bottle gourd. You know where they’re going with this idea, but Anudeep stretches this so far that it’s almost bizarre how sure he is of it.

It’s this sort of manic conviction that makes Prince tolerable, even when nothing’s going for it. Its entire screenplay could fit in the back of a chewing gum wrapper and it’s never really a screenplay as much as it’s an excuse to cue in the next comedic sketch. You might think this is hyperbolic, but trust me when I tell you that its biggest conflict arrives with a central character mistaking Cambridge for a city in France. It’s the kind of film that never takes itself seriously and in its subservience to that philosophy, it makes you feel like a fool for expecting coherence, finish or sense.

Sense, for instance, is so far removed from the world of Prince that the combined IQ of all the main characters is still in the low single digit. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Our defences are always down and you can consistently catch yourself laughing for one liners and setups that are embarrassingly silly. Which is why it feels so organic when you finally have a Tamil movie patriarch (an excellent Sathyaraj) who is actually heartbroken when his daughter elopes with someone from the same caste.

This is also in line with Prince's central message, which prioritises humanity over caste, religion or regional boundaries. But who are we kidding with this message when the film uses it as an excuse to pack in as many jokes about all nationalities as it can? So when the film’s big climactic speech is being made to advocate a world without borders, the makers can also slip in a joke about women describing the beauty of the borders of their respective sarees. All of this is truly absurd and can only be thought off by a person for whom laughter is both the journey and destination.

This also means that you’re simultaneously cherry picking at what jokes land and what don’t. Some, like a longish stretch involving Soori, is a glorious mess that comes from a very calculative approach for a gloriously random film. Another longish sketch involving Anbu (Sivakarthikeyan) and his three buddies fall flat when they’re trying to force the jokes rather than let it land it peace. You find the same kind of annoying overthinking in the way the songs have been placed as well. Not only do these dance numbers stick out when you’re simply waiting for the next big joke, but you can also sense how they’re being pushed into the film because it kinda, sorta has become a big selling point for its hero.

But even this kind of strategy isn’t something you can blame the hero for in other portions. Sivakarthikeyan stars in perhaps his least heroic film after hitting superstardom, and he’s able to maintain the film’s funny-or-die attitude even through awkward romantic stretches and the slightly less awkward emotional scenes. Adding that he also doesn’t need a sidekick to keep the jokes flowing, you can also see how he’s able to distract us from the severe ineptitude of the foreign actors (the Tamil they speak is insufferable). With its clunky making and questionable production values, there’s nothing in terms of cinematic quality in Prince. Despite this sketch comedy-like polish and the many jokes that go nowhere, Prince is still very watchable. But if you’ve got a place in your heart for some old fashioned "mokkai", you’re likely to leave without worrying too much about how much your standards have fallen.

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