The official trailer for Saamy 2, also called Saamy Square, has the Internet tripping. If the film is anything like the trailer, not even the most committed Vikram fan can deny that it will be disastrous.
With bizarre 'punch' dialogues like, "I was not born in the womb of a mother, I was born in the womb of a ghost," (just because 'thaai' and 'pei' rhyme) and, "I'm not a god, I'm a monster," (whut?), the trailer is full of headache-inducing rapid cuts from the film. If the lines weren't bad enough, director Hari has lit up Vikram's badge, his eyes, hands and his hair in some shots – in case we felt compelled to look away. Needless to say, the villains don't just fall when beaten up by the hero. They fly. Keerthy Suresh also receives a hard slap on her face from the hero; he really is that macho. As the Twitterati put it, is this a regular film or a parody like CS Amudhan's upcoming Tamizh Padam 2.0?
To be sure, this isn't the first time director Hari has gone overboard. His last film, Singam 3, with Suriya in the lead role, was similar in treatment. Unbearably loud and with stunt sequences that looked comical, Singam 3 was a far cry from the first film in the franchise which released in 2010.
Both Suriya and Vikram are fine actors who have time and again proved that they can do roles which go beyond the "mass" hero ones. But unfortunately, the pressure to appeal to a wide fan base appears to be pushing them to do one terrible film after another. Suriya tried to break out of the image trap with his Pongal release Thaana Serntha Koottam – but the remake of the Hindi Special 26 was diluted quite a bit to accommodate the superman hero. Meanwhile, Vikram's Pongal release was the immensely forgettable Sketch which sank at the box-office.
Of the other two "mass" kings, Ajith and Vijay, it is Vijay who is picking the better scripts. Ajith's last release Vivegam was simply a praise-fest for the hero, with even the villain singing paeans to his greatness all through. Vijay's Mersal, in comparison, had a much better script and story-line. Although his films, too, have plenty of fan-pleasing moments and are unapologetic star vehicles, they have been striking the right balance within the mainstream masala film genre.
Their seniors in the industry, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, meanwhile, have announced their decision to enter politics. Rajinikanth, who was caught in an image trap for the longest time, broke out of it at last with Pa Ranjith's Kabali, in which he played his age and subverted several tropes of the superstar film. Kamal Haasan, on the other hand, has always tried out different roles and genres although these films rarely gave equal importance to other characters.
The younger superstars would do well to learn their lessons from the careers of their seniors in the industry – what they did right and what they didn't. Currently, it appears that only Vijay Sethupathi – who is not in the league of the top 4 yet – is interested in doing films that treat him as an actor and not a demi-god. Dhanush has branched out to direction and production, while also acting in Hindi and Hollywood films. In any case, the films he has done have typically been about the underdog rather than the superman. Sivakarthikeyan, who is a relatively new superstar and gets huge openings for his films, is trying out an image change from the jobless stalker to doing more 'responsible' cinema. But it remains to be seen how this will work out for him.
The exorbitant salaries that the top stars command mean that the big budget flicks they act in should necessarily cater to the masses; they should have repeat value if they are to run for several weeks. Any film they act in gets massive openings but after that, what? Can a film that's written solely motivated by financial compulsions ever soar beyond it? Is it enough to make films only to satisfy the fanboy legions that these actors command? Are they happy, as artistes, to stay within this box?
Saamy 2, like every other "mass" hero film will generate enough buzz for it to have a successful opening. But for several fans of Tamil cinema, it is yet another frustrating reminder of how underutilised some of our biggest stars are.