The filmmakers ask not to expect logic in a fantasy-comedy. They should have told us not to expect the comedy either.

Naai Sekar screengrab, reviewScreengrab/SonyMusicSouth
Flix Review Friday, January 14, 2022 - 11:50

I was doom-scrolling through Twitter during the movie—yes, it was that bad—and apparently one year ago to the day, we were all watching Master. Now I was enduring Nai Sekkar instead and if this isn’t proof that the pandemic age will continue into new lows with each passing year, I don’t know what is. I expected little, would have been astonished if the film had accomplished its promise as a laugh-riot, but to at least manage three jokes that land is not such a big ask. This is Kishore Rajkumar’s debut attempt as a director for a film he also stars in with Sathish and Pavithra Lakshmi in the lead roles. There are enough comedians in the cast including George Maryan, Shiva, Manobala, KPY Bala, Gnanasambandan, Livingstone and others to hold a Kallaka Povathu Yaaru - Celebrity Edition and yet there is hardly anything identifiably funny happening.

Naai Sekkar starts off with a disclaimer that this is “fantasy comedy, do not expect logic”. That’s fine, I will accept a mad scientist who swaps human and dog DNA, that the two then start developing characteristics of the other, or even that the mind-voice of a Labrador now with a touch of human in it, will sound like actor Shiva. I will also accept that the dog and human must unite in their mission to … to … I don’t know … no audience will be able to accurately recall, but they had one. We must remember that apart from this grand purpose, there are the essentials of a hero’s arc that Sathish must fulfill: fall in love, get “friendzoned”, get appreciated by the heroine for not being a complete entitled jerk for being “friendzoned”, have an Appa-sentiment moment and so on. Like I said, the essentials. I will accept to sit through all this however begrudgingly.

I expect, in return, to be provided the comedy part also, not short-changed. You can put up with labs lifted off the Shaktimaan sets and microbiology projects named after Rajinikanth movies only so much before wanting to stick your head in an empty popcorn container and howl from sheer boredom. In retrospect, I should have done that. The 15 other people in the whole theatre would have been grateful for some entertainment. Unfortunately, like most, I have good ideas only too late.

I freely provide spoilers, so to warn you off wasting time at this movie: a disgraced scientist (George Maryan) is obsessed with “swapping DNAs” of different beings. They will mutate or turn into each other. The limits and leaps ahead in medical science are irrelevant to the plot. And of course, Sathish, the hero of the film, “swaps” DNA with Padayappa, the Labrador. All of the scientist’s projects and pets are named after Rajini movies —  Superstar fans take note. There are also two dognappers who sell stolen pets to a Korean restaurant (what’s Tamil cinema without some racism). Oh, and almost none of the jokes work. That’s about all you need to know.

 There are films that are sooo bad, so “mokkai”, a long-suffering reviewer could at the least comfort themselves by writing with scathing comedy. What do you do with boredom though? I can’t address the plot holes larger than some craters on the moon, because we’ve been asked not to seek logic where there is none. I wish the filmmakers had also given me some instructions on what to do when we don’t find comedy either, just so I would know what to do with this review.

 Naai Sekkar, very occasionally, makes half-hearted attempts to poke fun at the formula of formula-films, but so tedious is the effort that it almost serves to lull you into a hazy half-sleep. This was just kindness, like anesthesia, from the director’s part so you don’t feel the cringe-worthy jokes too keenly. The downside of this thoughtful gesture is that I’m now in a stupor which even directly injecting caffeine into my veins won’t shake off to induce a few coherent thoughts.

The music, by Anirudh, is unremarkable, the heroine is unremarkable, the villain (played by Shankar Ganesh) makes you want to write an earnest letter to him informing him how unfunny he is, Sathish is only remarkable for the fact that he agreed to be in such an awful movie. That, and I have a *lot* of remarks for him. See, this is what 153 minutes of Nai Sekkar has done to my sense of humour. It has curled up in a ball and gone off to cry in a corner, leaving me to flounder like this.

There was a single point in the film when I truly connected to what was happening on screen. I think, by the climax, the director had a moment of insight into what his audience might be going through by then. The villain in an exaggerated, endless (un)comic sequence is boasting about some old exploit to the heroine he has just kidnapped. The “joke” at this point is Pavithra Lakshmi imploringly begging him to kill her even, but to stop boring her to death. Yeah, that’s basically the whole movie, lady. What to do, I too would have welcomed an attempt on my life by that point, just for something remotely exciting to happen during that 153-minute run time.

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