It is quite rare to experience a well-made supernatural thriller and I was quite happy when I stumbled upon The Others, a 2001 English-language supernatural thriller by Alejandro Amenábar, almost a decade ago. While this film brilliantly delivered a freaky Sixth Sense-like twist towards the end, Tamannaah’s Petromax attempts something similar - but in the manner of actor Senthil crushing the mantle in the famous ‘petromax’ light comedy (Vaidehi Kathirunthal). In my head, the infamous ‘Idhula epdi ne light eriyum’ dialogue became ‘idhula enna ne periya twistu’. When will Tamil cinema accept defeat and rest this horror comedy business?
Petromax, directed by Rohin Venkatesan and produced by Passion Studios, is the remake of the 2017 Telugu film Anando Brahma, which starred Taapsee. The film begins with two different storylines. A young man (Prem) living in Malaysia is worried about the well-being of his parents who are probably caught in the Kerala floods. He then finds out that they’ve tragically passed away and so decides to sell his family property before he can leave the country for good.
There’s another family (Tamannaah’s) that lives in a big house that seems to be haunted. The relationships in this family, however, don’t quite match - there’s a child who calls Tamannaah as akka and the older person thatha while Tamannaah addresses the same person as appa.
After a few terribly executed scares (honestly, they were laughable), they discover that all four of them - Tamannaah, the young girl, the older person and the male cook - are dead and are wandering around the house as souls.
Suddenly, with the realisation that they’re dead, they realise that they have no fear (fear is a human trait we’re told) and decide to scare everyone who comes into the house. They cannot leave the house yet because they all want to meet the missing mother of the family one last time before they can rest in peace. O-cough-kay!
The two storylines collide as the haunted house becomes the family property that the NRI son is looking to sell. How are they connected and what happens becomes the rest of the story.
The first half of the film is lackluster because all that the director wants to do is establish a weird group of characters. This he does with very little logic. Munishkanth works as a server at a bar with a heart condition, Sathyan is an ATM watchman who is hard of hearing and suffers from night blindness, Kaali Venkat is a drunk who impulsively loses the money saved for his son’s surgery in a bet, and Trichy Saravanakumar (TSk) is a movie maniac.
All four of them unite to make a quick buck by staying for three nights at the house considered to be haunted.
Petromax gets better in its second half in which it has a good number of funny scenes written to accommodate all the quirks of the four different characters. Yogi Babu makes a brief appearance midway to add some more laughs and thankfully none of the jokes make you cringe.
Tamannaah has very little screen time and has hardly anything to do. However, she holds her own in the few scenes that she appears. If not for the brief comedy sequences, Petromax is just a tame family drama. And there's no horror whatsoever.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.