Kollywood
India’s first space film looks convincing but is in desperate need of good writing.

Director Shakti Soundar Rajan’s Tik Tik Tik is one of those ambitious projects that you desperately want to like. It’s India’s first space film, after all. As Appu (Arjunan) tells us, everyone remembers who the first man on the moon was, not so much the second and the third. Being first, venturing into something new for the industry has a certain value, and full marks to Tik Tik Tik for trying.

Tik Tik Tik is definitely not a Hollywood film. For one, Hollywood is obsessed with saving the world. Shakti Soundar Rajan is modest – his characters just want to save a part of India. But one wishes that this director, who seems to have a real thirst to take Tamil cinema to vera level, would get a writer on board. Someone who can flesh out the characters and write a proper script.

At a taut runtime of just over two hours, Tik Tik Tik starts with the problem – a giant asteroid is about to destroy Tamil Nadu and kill over 4 crore people. Who can stop it? The answer, it turns out, is not the scientists or even highly trained military personnel – it’s a Robin Hood-type magician, Vasu (Jayam Ravi), who does his good Samaritan work through a hacker (Arjunan) and a contortionist-helper (Ramesh Thilak). They are the team the army chief (an out-of-sorts Jayaprakash) trusts to prevent this minor apocalypse.

Even if physicists around the world are in danger of suffering a seizure at the idea, the audience could have still warmed up to it, if only the screenplay had more on offer. Take the introduction scene for Vasu – after we’re elaborately told about how he landed in prison and what a genius of a magician he is, we see him doing… card tricks and the same ‘magic’ handcuff switches we’re already expecting him to do.

This lack of imagination plagues the film throughout. Nivetha Pethuraj plays Swathi, a Lieutenant – but even as she’s training the team, Shakti Soundar Rajan can’t resist putting her in a swimsuit and having the men ogle her. And of course, because she is a woman, Vasu has to chivalrously come to her rescue when the villain targets her. Lieutenant, be damned. It’s heartening, however, that the director thought of including some women in the team of scientists although they do little but gasp. And yay, there’s no cheesy love duet in space.

Jayam Ravi’s real life son, Aarav, plays his kid in the film, too. Their relationship and what happens to the son is an important plot point but the director barely invests any time in building their bond on screen. We’re shown real life photos of the father-son and this is supposedly enough to convince the audience about the love between them. Such laziness in scripting costs the film dearly as we just don’t get involved enough with any of the characters.

It’s the sets, cinematography and VFX work that really carry Tik Tik Tik through. Given that the budget is nowhere close to Hollywood flicks, the visual effects are impressive and convince us that this unlikely bunch actually is in space. Even if we don’t care about the characters crying, it’s fun to see their tears floating up – how better a film this would have been if the attention to detail had also been extended to the storytelling! D Imman’s Tik Tik Tik in the background score is quite addictive even if the screenplay doesn’t really keep us on tenterhooks about the ticking hands of the clock.

The comedy inserted into the script floats around like an object in zero gravity, not landing anywhere and just getting in the way. Aaron Aziz plays a Chinese (the name of the country is beeped out but it’s an easy guess to make) villain who is entrusted with the unenviable task of shouting praise at the Indian hero – “You Indians! You have an astronaut who fights!” he yells in disbelief. I was tempted to take him aside and say, “Actually, that’s a magician who is a Robin Hood, who is now an astronaut, and he is fighting!” Imagine how blown he’d have been.

Tik Tik Tik feels like a missed opportunity. It’s neither a proper ‘masala’ film, nor a sophisticated thriller – but despite the fact that it never really takes off, it deserves a consolation prize for trying. Here’s hoping Shakti Soundar Rajan gets some specialists on board the next time and doesn’t attempt to be the magician-director-writer.

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.

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