The more Tamil films I watch, the more convinced I become that a lot of directors seem to believe half their job is done if they come up with a "unique" title for the film. This week's release, Ghajinikanth, is one such.
Santhosh's comedy (and I'm being generous here) is the remake of the Telugu film Bhale Bhale Magodivoy. I looked up the Telugu film, wondering if it was made in the '80s or '90s but apparently, it was released just three years ago. So, we have a hero who gets easily distracted from performing tasks or even finding routes - but it never occurs to him to set reminders or check Google maps when driving. Those around him don't think of this either. If you believe this must be because he doesn't have a phone, you couldn't be more wrong. He has one, with a ringtone that goes 'Kya re settingah?' every five minutes.
Rajinikanth (Arya) is born when his parents go to watch Dharmathin Thalaivan. In true Tamil cinema style, the baby is born before the mother can have a self-respecting contraction. It's all over in three minutes and Rajinikanth has arrived on the planet. But he also has the characteristic that one of the superstar's characters in Dharmathin Thalaivan had - he is forgetful ('Ghajini' comes from the Suriya film, "inspired" by Memento). Even if you forgive that absurd premise, Ghajinikanth makes for a tiring watch.
In the superstar film, his forgetfulness was exploited in several hilarious circumstances. In Ghajinikanth, it all boils down to whether he can get the girl. And who is the girl? How is she introduced? Why, she's helping children who're holding smiley boards cross the road! Remarkably original. Not.
The cliches don't stop there in the love saga between Vandhana (a plastic Sayyessha who comes to life only when she dances) and Rajinikanth. Every tired trope in Tamil cinema plus a few borrowed from TV serials (the make-up and unbearably dramatic background score, especially) finds its way to the plot. This is Santhosh's attempt to make a 'clean U' film after Hara Hara Mahadevaki and Iruttu Arayil Murattu Kutthu and he goes about doing it with heartwarming "family-friendly" sequences that blatantly insult "picchakarans", "velakkaris" etc.
Arya tries to hold up the show gamely but with such poorly written characters (the rowdy cop-villain has my deepest sympathy), there's precious little he can do. There are some old-fashioned comedy scenes which evoke feeble laughter - or perhaps it's because I gave in after sitting so grimly for most of the film - but the rest of it is a mess of glaring plot-holes, flat jokes, bad editing and outlandish sentiments. Imagine, we're all supposed to shed tears because the hero arrives to give the heroine a sponge bath when she has high fever (but still looks like a mannequin).
Perhaps the best thing one can say about Ghajinikanth is that we can take a leaf out of the hero's book and quickly look for a distraction that will make us forget all about having watched it.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the filmâ€™s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.