Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Samantha Akkineni, Yogi Babu, Rajendran, Soori, Simran
In a recent interview to Film Companion, Sivakarthikeyan said, “Humour-driven films can be good cinema, and I don’t subscribe to the view that good cinema has to be serious.” Ironically, the star’s new film, Seemaraja, is his most serious yet. Oh, the jokes (or at least, the attempts at them) are still there. I sat up when an old man is revealed as “Thotti” Thatha because he breaks flowerpots when mad. This kind of an absurd touch can really liven up a movie. But this gag vanishes very soon. Manobala turns up as the headmaster of a local school. He vanishes very soon. “Naan Kadavul” Rajendran turns up as a wrestling coach. He vanishes very soon. Soori has some fun one-liners, but they vanish soon. Two Australians show up – and vanish almost at once. Nothing lasts in Seemaraja, written and directed by Ponram. We get two horses named Alex and Telex. After a few scenes, they vanish, too.
And we’re stuck with several serious subplots. There’s one that has to do with warring villages, with a piece of disputed land that brings to mind the plot of Thevar Magan – though I was actually reminded of that film by a later scene where a well-respected patriarch dies after being humiliated, and his son steps into his shoes. Another story thread has to do with a girl and the father who abandoned her (who’s now come to reclaim her). Then, we get a fourteenth-century flashback, about a king who battled Alauddin Khilji’s forces. (Keerthy Suresh guest-stars in this episode. The running time of her scenes is less than some of the jewellery ads we see in theatres, during intermission.) Another subplot revolves around farmers’ issues, with a dash of Tamil valourisation. (“Thamizhan nilam Thamizhanukke.” Translation: Our land shall remain ours, and not be sold to north Indian, Sterlite-type companies.)
The most interesting bits have to do with Simran, who plays Kaleeswari. (What is it with these powerful women? Are they always doomed to names like Kaleeswari and Neelambari?)
The most interesting bits have to do with Simran, who plays Kaleeswari. (What is it with these powerful women? Are they always doomed to names like Kaleeswari and Neelambari? Isn’t there a vamp somewhere named Anita or Kala?) The role, strictly speaking, is redundant – Lal, who plays Kaleeswari’s husband, does all the shouting and scheming. But it’s fun to see Simran in OTT mode. Everything she does seems to be a variation of “vootla sollittu vandhiya?” In her presence, Samantha, in generic-heroine mode, is a pale shadow. (The name is Selvi, thankfully, and not, say, Yaazhmeetti or some such thing.). Ponram tries to make Selvi interesting by making her a silambam teacher. (Another Thevar Magan touch?) But her job could have been Helper of Schoolchildren Across Roads, and nothing would have been different.
Comedies work best when the story is basic, leaving room for gags to blossom and breathe. The non-stop plot, here, is stifling. Even the love story between Seemaraja (Sivakarthikeyan) and Selvi takes a serious turn. She’s the daughter of the villain, who locks her up, threatening that her sisters and the people who raised her will die if she runs off with Seemaraja. So when Seemaraja comes, like a Disney prince, to rescue her, she says she cannot leave – but a few scenes later, she does exactly that. This is writing not just of convenience, but of contempt. It says: Keep showing Sivakarthikeyan in every scene and the audience won’t care. This attitude is reflected in the Vaaren vaaren song, where a line goes: Aracha maava arachaalum adhukku venum oru thiramai. Even recycling, apparently, takes talent. You have to take their word for it, for talent is the last word you’d associate with this numbing movie, which thinks fat jokes with a trumpet on the soundtrack are still funny.