Teddy On Disney+ Hotstar: Arya And Sayyeshaa Star In A Bearly-Adequate Thriller

Tamil cinema's high-concept king, Shakti Soundar Rajan, takes a tumble with this story about a giant talking bear.
Teddy On Disney+ Hotstar: Arya And Sayyeshaa Star In A Bearly-Adequate Thriller

Shakti Soundar Rajan likes the high concept. He likes to say "I made the first zombie thriller in Tamil cinema". (That was Miruthan.) He likes to say "I made the first space adventure in Tamil cinema". (That was Tik Tik Tik.) He likes to say "I made the first giant talking bear movie in Tamil cinema". That's his new film, Teddy. Sri (Sayyeshaa) is a happy girl. We see how happy she is when she photographs a bird and smiles. The piano music behind her is even happier. We get the feeling that pointing a camera at winged creatures can replace a day's worth of retail therapy. Then, sad things begin to happen to Sri — and no, not just because she doesn't have her camera with her anymore. It's because she suffers an accident and her spirit or soul or whatever enters a giant teddy bear, which begins to speak in her voice.

The first half is a washout: bad reaction shots, bad (and very expository) writing, and functional dialogue that tells us what a genius Shiva (Arya) is. He knows all about stocks and shares. He knows all about Greek literature. (I'm guessing his accumulation of knowledge never hits a Plato!) He knows everything because he has a photographic memory. Remember that Sri likes to take photographs? Maybe it's a metaphor that they are meant to be together, preferably with a giant bird circling above them. But Shiva is a loner and we get a song that celebrates his love for loneliness (En iniya thanimaye…) because that is why we watch movies with giant talking bears: for the Sid Sriram songs.

There are scenes that go like this. Shiva saves a man from dying of suicide. He reassures the man that everything will be okay. And he walks out carrying the giant talking bear. The man who has just been saved from suicide doesn't seem the least bit upset that the man who brought him back to life is a man who carries around a giant teddy bear. Maybe this sort of thing happens to him all the time. Maybe the previous time he attempted suicide, he was rescued by a woman clutching a giant Barbie doll. Meanwhile, Shiva's shrink walks into his bedroom and tells him she wants to be in a mature relationship with him but without marriage. But Teddy is a children's film (I think!), so we never really find out how mature she wanted this relationship to be, and whether it involved the giant talking bear.

Shiva sings songs. Shiva fights. The giant teddy bear recites Bharathi: Naan veezhven ena ninaithayo! Shiva reads Ayn Rand, even if we are the ones left with existential thoughts. (At one point I might have mildly felt like killing myself. But then, I knew Shiva and the giant teddy bear would barge in and save me.) The second half is a little better, even if it takes place in Azerbaijan, which seems run over by not just a giant talking bear but also regular-sized talking Tamilians. Everyone speaks the language. It makes you imagine an accident and wonder if the average Azerbaijan's reply to "Are you hurt? Did you fall off your bike?" would be "Naan veezhven ena ninaithayo!" This part is the thriller part. It may be generic, but at least something is happening all the time. Shiva conquers the villains and we get the hint of a sequel. The logic seems to be: "Well, if you could bear this one…"!

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