Danny Movie Review: Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s New ZEE5 Original Is Offensive To Dog-Kind

Director: Santhanamoorthy

Cast: Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Anitha Sampath, Vinoth Kishan, Vela Ramamoorthy

What you feel about Danny depends on where you stand on the whole representation debate. As a Labradorian (a dog lover with a special love for labradors), our dog-ma has always underlined the need for more representation of our favourites in pop culture, especially in Tamil cinema. Last year’s sleeper hit Puppy was a sign of good things to come and we expected its success to lead to our own Ulaga nay-agan in the future. So when Danny was being promoted as a buddy cop movie starring a female police officer and a high ranking paw-lice officer, we thought our day had come. After all, a titular role in an action film was no barking matter. 

Even the ZEE5 Original’s first scene is what we’ve been waiting for for decades. It’s a setup we’ve seen a million times, but this has renewed energy. The cops get a tip-off about a drug mule, but they can’t find any evidence, and everyone is stressed.  If this film were set in the early 2000s, Paravai Muniyamma would have appeared from nowhere to announce the arrival of the saviour. Within a minute, Danny enters, in slow motion and accompanied by the sound of hip hop music (maybe, Snoop Dog?). He runs into a bus, pulls the mule out and saves the day, bringing cheer to one and all. Did we really, finally just get a hero introduction scene for a dog? I blame Covid, because had Danny found a theatrical release, this scene alone would have led to State-wide Pedigree abhishekams.    

But this initial joy quickly subsides. For a canine-oriented subject, the rest of the film is surprisingly lacking in canines. Instead, what we get is a bold female police officer whose introduction scene involves Inspector Kunthavai (Varalaxmi) ploughing the field on a tractor, because #TamilHeroSavesAllFarmers. We also meet her angel-like younger sister who is the epitome of all things good. She teaches visually-impaired children, she wears only salwars and she loves her family. That something dangerous will happen to her later on is almost impossible to predict…but only if this is the first ever film you’re watching.

What follows is just any other murder investigation, but without any real investigation happening. In a sense, our boy Danny is so underused in the film that he merely serves the function of Google Maps in the investigation. All logic points to the filmmaker’s inability to really direct the dog into the film. So even when the dog is actually doing its job, it’s merely the camera at ground level doing a bit of running around, cut with shots of the dog running from another context. 

Given that it deals with serious issues, it also doesn’t help when even the super senti scenes play out melodramatically. Which is when you realise the thinking behind the film. It’s like the makers found a template police investigation script from the 90s, only to FIND AND REPLACE the hero with a heroine and best friend with a dog. What if I also tell you that the film tries to make a case for an extra judicial killing at this point in time? That’s Danny for you. As a cinephile, it’s really upsetting. But as a Labradorian, the film is downright offensive.

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