Cast: Samuthirakani, Vikranth, Sunainaa, Arthana, Soori
Some people believe they’ll go to heaven if they die with the lord’s name on their lips. Here’s another option. While waiting in line outside Chitragupta’s office, make sure you’re holding on to the ticket stubs from Samuthirakani’s films. Admission guaranteed.
I’m only half-joking, for Samuthirakani can be a fine actor (he really has presence), but as a filmmaker, he’s a Moses descended from the mountaintop with a set of screenplays in each hand. Thou shalt not this… Thou shalt not that… He seeks to administer virtue in the manner of an enema: one forceful message, all the vices are washed away. If only. His latest film, Thondan (Volunteer), begins with violence on the streets, in front of a statue of Gandhi. He’d call it irony. I call it fear of the next couple of hours.
Samuthirakani plays an ambulance driver named… Vishnu. (See what I mean about the whole heaven thing?) Like his namesake, he protects people. Like his namesake, he also launches into sermons. He tells Vicky (Vikranth) — who’s in love with Vishnu’s sister — that he has the right to give her a love letter, just as she has the right to refuse him. In the span of a single scene, we get “If a girl says no, why pursue her?” and “If women don’t respect you, there’s no point calling yourself a man” and “We die not when breath leaves the body but when memories of us leave this earth.” Talk about optimisation. When the camera circles the scene of a truck-car collision, there’s a message written in the rear window of the car and on the front of the truck.
And it isn’t just the messages related to the characters and their actions. There’s one about farmer suicides. There’s one about jallikattu, where Vishnu reels off the names of every single indigenous cattle breed, as though rendering a divine chant. Remember the Purusha Latchanam song where the distraught Khushbu character launched into 108 names of the goddess? This is the bovine equivalent.
All of which would be okay — chaff around wheat — if there was a grain of good filmmaking. But the utterly generic bring-down-the-bad-guy story is preposterous, and scenes go on and on. (An IT raid looks like its own little movie.) The romantic track (with Sunaina) is equally dire — it involves a ghost costume. After Vishnu marries the girl he says, “Had you told me about your love six months ago, you’d have had by now a six-month-old in your stomach.” I thought a man given to such good thoughts and deeds would at least bother to ask what she wants. What if she wants to work? What if she isn’t ready to be a mother? No sermons now?
Watch the trailer here: