Seated inside the movie theatre, waiting for the opening credits to roll for Vishal’s Sandakozhi 2, I had an important question to ask. Why this sudden surge of sequels in Tamil cinema? Especially for a 13-year-old film that ended on a positive note? Perhaps filmmakers are running out of new ideas? The loud music that announced “Vishal 25” interrupted my line of thought and I decided to keep this question for another day, while waiting to watch another “2”.
Vishal’s Sandakozhi 2 released on Thursday to coincide with Ayutha Puja. The prequel that came out in 2005 had Vishal, Meera Jasmine, Rajkiran and Lal in lead roles and went on to become a major hit that year. If you thought Balu (Vishal) married Hema (Meera Jasmine) and all was well... you’re wrong.
The film begins with the villagers planning to revive an annual festival that had not been celebrated in seven years, following the last that ended in bloodshed. This festival, we learn, holds the key to all the good things that have thus far eluded the villagers, including the government proposed irrigation plan.
Rajkiran plays Durai, the ayya revered by everyone in the surrounding villages. We know of his fame and power from the first film and he retains his demigod status in this film as well.
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar plays Pechchi, the woman who has vouched to avenge her husband’s death from seven years ago. It is this bloody feud that has kept the festival from happening. Pechchi’s faction that thirsts for blood, plans to exact their revenge by killing the last surviving man from the other side during the course of the festival.
While it is understood that the clash happened in the first place due to caste, at no point, during the course of the film, does the film take a stand on caste.
Sandakozhi 2, in short, takes place during the ten-day village festival. Does the festival conclude successfully and does Durai’s group protect the man from getting killed forms the rest of the story.
Balu, who has been living abroad so far, returns to the village just in time for the festival. Vishal maintains his soft-spoken persona in this film as well. But the glaring hole in the plot was a question that kept gnawing from the start, even thought I knew Meera Jasmine was not a part of the cast. What happened to Hema?
The film does no justice to her character that made a mark in the first one. We’re given a weak “something bad happened” halfway into the film. Keerthy Suresh (Sembaruthi), in that sense has big shoes to fill in. One can find several similarities between the two characters, as if the makers themselves felt bad for the lack of authenticity.
Sembaruthi’s father is a teacher (just like Hema’s) and she even does a few stunts to remind us of Hema’s antics. Perhaps they thought adding extra ‘yov’s to her sentences might give her a convincing Madurai slang. This does not work, however.
Pechchi is an archetypal loud and vengeful woman whom we’ve seen aplenty in Tamil cinema and Varalaxmi fits easily into her role. The evident tanning makeup and the ‘angry woman wears her hair lose and screams on top of her voice’ could have been done differently.
The stunt team that has worked in this film deserves a special mention. All the stunt actors, who had to break several parts of their body while filming their stunts, deserve great appreciation. The film too has a good number of action sequences, all of which has been executed very well.
The absence of women in Durai’s household is disappointing and the idea that those from certain communities need to be protected and saved by someone from an influential, upper caste family is distasteful and regressive. Now, especially, with the changing narratives in Tamil cinema, Sandakozhi 2 only takes it a step backward. In that sense, the film could've been made ten years ago and it would not have made any difference.
Sandakozhi 2 is a sequel we could have done without. But now that it has been made, one hopes “something bad” does not happen to Sembaruthi if they plan on making another one.
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 film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.