Mani Prabhu

Watching Vijay’s recent release Bairavaa could have turned out a more agonizing experience, if I hadn’t chosen to spend the majority of time, contemplating on the thought “Why do some people never learn?” Debacle after debacle. Reasoning after reasoning. Feedback after feedback. Is it some sort of an industry myth that fans flock to see their favourite star making a fool of his own perceived image, repeatedly on screen, for lack of a half-decent script? Is it some dangerously, puffed-up narcissistic conceit that a star could pull off a string of totally non-related scenes, put together under the pretext of having a mass appeal, making the barest minimum of efforts in other departments of film-making seem redundant? Is it something about blatant mediocrity continually turning out to be financially lucrative, driving those who pump in the money to call the shots more frequently and emphatically than those who sit together to assemble a film? Is it to do with the widespread perspective that the masala-movie genre, by virtue of its own sensibilities, doesn’t call for any kind of clever writing? Is it about the star’s reluctance/ refusal to approach a movie as a product consumed by a variety of audience, and not only his die-hard fanatics, who seem to be Pavlov-conditioned to orgasm at a handful of badly written bits of self-indulgence? Is it about the film-maker blaming the audience that he only gets to make what sells? Is it about the audience blaming the industry that this is what they are being served in the name of ‘masala’? Is it then merely a case of, “Why rack your brains and write a simple narrative that manages to engage, when you can just make easy money by randomly checking off must-have boxes with smug indifference and pad the rest of the running time with scenes that show your star as the logic-defying, ‘message’ spewing,  all-powerful savior?”

And so, by the time I found myself tied in vicious knots in this endeavor to make sense of why a ‘Bairavaa’ kept rising from the ashes, every time it’s mercilessly killed and ripped apart, I had almost reached the film’s climax. I couldn’t narrow it all down to a singular, rational argument, but I managed to stay sane. And I was thankful for that. But what about the plight of the person to my left, who had unfortunately forgotten his mobile, back at home? Imagine the state of the average masala-movie lover, who had come to the theatre with a store-bought whistle and the basic expectation that he could have a whale of a time, forgetting his mundane worries for a couple of hours? What about the aspiring film-maker somewhere in the crowd, who had almost buried his heads into his folded palms, at the thought of all the magic that could have been possible with someone like Vijay? Or for that matter, what about the sensible fan who had come to see his favourite hero entertain him, while not making him question his own cinematic sensibilities?

For the film, in simple terms, neither succeeds in dishing out goose-bump-worthy heroic moments nor makes the intervening drama vaguely watchable. But in true-Kollywood tradition, it doesn’t miss an opportunity to deliver ‘enriching’ messages that stand out like moral science sessions on a fun picnic trip. The staging continues to be shockingly flat, but the heart-of-gold hero jumps to flex his muscles at first given opportunity – never bothering to use his brains even accidentally – but instead sprouting conscientious four-liners with the consistency of a stage orator. The entirety of the second half pans out as if it was written on the shooting spot with whatever actors they managed to assemble and whatever punch-lines the assistant director impulsively came up with. After a mind-numbingly long, worded exposition, that sounded more like a six-year old recounting the film to someone who had walked in an hour late, Vijay tries to shoulder some serious heavy-weight conflict.

And from there, the problems only keep escalating. But again, why can’t people just learn? To accept that, for the audience to overlook Vijay’s “Do I look like someone who cares?” body-language and persona, it requires some serious solid writing. Leave alone ‘solid’, what we get her is not even basic quality control in forwarding the conflict. And that’s why the initial thirty-minute stretch – where Vijay casually struts around, cracks a couple of ‘cool’ jokes, lets Sathish take a few hilarious jabs at him, plays to his strengths by remaining his original self – though, nothing special – seems like the thing we could watch all day, compared to the ineptness that follows in the garb of a heroic, social drama.

So by now, (or for that matter, after every other Vijay film made in the pretext of a ‘mass’ movie in the past decade), with even an average high-school student being able to point out that his strained dialogue delivery and fake heavy-weight heroics (without a reasonable script to anchor the star-isms) serves nothing more than strengthening the average cinema-goer’s resolve to stay far away from the theatres, what is stopping Vijay and his producers to realize it?