Cast: Saravanan Arul, Urvashi Rautela, Nassar, Kaali Venkat, Vivek, Prabhu, Yogi Babu
Directors: Jerry, Joseph D. Sami
Writer: Pattukottai Prabhakar
Say what you want about the final result, but you have to give it to writer-director duo JD-Jerry for the amount of conviction they’ve put into The Legend—a sprawling, 160-minute rocket launch for its lead star. It’s the kind of mega movie that operates on one simple principle—why have one of something when you can afford 12,000 of it. This doesn’t just apply to the massive sets that have been erected to recreate a mansion, a research facility, a bar in Manali, a second research facility, and a hell-hole to hold hundreds of human lab rats. This also extends to the film’s two main heroines, two item-song stars, five medium-to-large villains, and an army of every comedic actor money can buy. Add to this a few thousand dress changes, a plethora of Rolls Royces, and at least four foreign locations and there’s nothing you cannot find in this movie.
The screenplay of The Legend seems to borrow its architecture from that of the Saravana Stores building in T.Nagar. Every stage is filled with so much of everything that you’re bound to find at least a handful of things you’re looking for. This includes an energized introduction number composed by Harris Jayaraj that doesn’t hold a shot for more than one-fifth of a second. It’s a very Shankar-like approach to tell the story of a saviour who doesn’t just want to save his countrymen. He wants to save the whole of mankind, animals and birds.
The setup too is unmistakably Sivaji-like. A world-renowned scientist returns to his village to do good for his people but their problems aren’t as basic as they once were. Unfortunately for Saravanan (Saravanan Arul), his forefathers have already built good colleges and schools in his village, so he cannot help his people get educated. Even more unfortunate is how fighting corruption isn’t an issue he’s majored in. It’s when he’s chilling in his hometown that he’s forced to discover a cause that’s worth fighting for and no, it’s not the plight of farmers or the dwindling number of indigenous bull breeds. It’s the rising case of diabetics in his country that hits his sweet spot.
He has already pissed off a powerful cartel of pharmaceutical billionaires with an invention that detects the need for antibiotics in patients. So, when he takes a step to cure diabetes, once and for all, his enemies multiply and the film’s logic gets subtracted. An example is the smart segue that moves from a tragedy in Saravanan’s life to a temple thiruvizha that needs to be celebrated at once, that too featuring an item song starring Raai Laxmi.
Such surprises are everywhere and the idea isn’t really to serve the screenplay. The makers seem to have started with a to-do list of a certain number of fight scenes, chases and songs to show the full range of both its lead star and the film’s producer. As the lead actor, Saravanan is quite limited. A heartbreak scene that follows a scene right out of The Godfather (more Apollonia than Michael) is unarguably the best scene of the film. Even when he speaks, it never feels like a human being talking to another (he talks directly to the camera too). They are philosophical pearls of wisdom that are meant to break the fourth wall and instantly improve the lives of the millions of people watching the film.
When he’s not prophesying, he explains the functions of the human pancreas to a lab full of the world’s best experts on the subject. It sounds like he’s reading the first para of the first Wikipedia link that appears when you google “pancreas”. But for these doctors, this is shocking information. In one instance, Saravanan stops mid-sentence to praise the charm of Yogi Babu’s dark skin tone. But we weren’t doubting that anyway. This sort of lofty pitch for the dialogues is consistent throughout. Like the big menacing punchline a menacingly evil villain keeps repeating. What is it? Oooolaa!
The supporting actors aren’t actors as much as they are highly-paid hype bros. They are there just to speak about the greatness of their Legend in a series of enthusiastic rants. When you further add a convenient set of plot twists that bring the film to a hilariously OTT ending to address an appa sentiment, you’ve got a dozen movies at the price of one ticket. When the film wants, it can also be classy and subtle like when all the bad guys appear in black, with the good guys dressed from top to bottom in white.
Hidden not so subtly in this jarringly colourful movie is a scathing critique of crony capitalism. It addresses a very serious issue in the way pharmaceutical companies collude to keep medicines beyond regular people, often marking up the cost of production for huge margins. But the actual argument against capitalism is this film itself. It shows us what loads of nothing but money can do to an art form like cinema. The Legend is nowhere close to being a real movie and it is, instead, a big, bloated ego trip that believes money is the same as creativity. It is also the most fun you’re likely to have this Aadi season.