Varun and Raahei in Joshua
Varun and Raahei in Joshua

Joshua Imai Pol Kaakha review: A GVM film that lacks punch or passion

Gautham Vasudev Menon’s latest has got love, action, mystery and tension. Yet, none of it captures our emotion or imagination, independently or as a whole. In the end, it’s as tiresome as it’s tired.
Joshua Imai Pol Kaakha (Tamil)(2 / 5)

As critics, we quite easily call a film lazy or amateur without considering what the filmmaker might be going through. Except, considering the filmmaker’s plight is not the job. The job is to read the film and say what we think (hopefully from our informed — albeit personal — perspective). Even this attempt at objectivity isn’t possible with Gautham Vasudev Menon's films because his ‘plight’ is so intertwined with what he makes for the screen.

Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha is the story of an assassin who falls in love with a prosecutor in danger, and swears to protect her. While this is as good a premise as any, Gautham Vasudev Menon goes out of his way to make the film unwatchable. He gives us nothing to hang on to, no one to root for or hate. 

The character of Joshua, the eponymous protagonist played by Varun, is written with a niggling indifference. He fashions himself as a killer-for-good but shows no moral dilemma about any of the violence. For an “international assassin,” he has nothing but street fighting skills. His backstories are grotesquely irrelevant. The only way we understand his ‘love’ is through close-up shots of the heroine’s eyes (which unfortunately say nothing). 

Kundhavi (Raahei), Joshua’s love interest, is spoken about as the assistant US district attorney, the daughter of the district attorney, the lead in a controversial case, brave, blah, blah. But she is your garden variety damsel in distress who would wake up a half-dead Joshua to save her from attackers, instead of doing anything about it herself. 

For a lawyer, she has no moral quandary about falling in love with an assassin who has killed 25 people (yes, they mention that in the film), even as she talks about the horrors of drug-related murders. Love is blind, I’ve heard, but does it also erase brain cells?

The only character that feels right is Madhavi (DD Neelakantan), mainly because the actor works it! She has a panache and dynamism that feels natural, without any pomp and drama about being the boss of hitmen. 

This film's biggest dilemma is whether it’s a love story or an action film. It tries to be both, placing violence as a way to protect love. Yet, the love itself kindles no emotion. The simplistic writing of the woman as a weakling who needs protection is straight-up boring.

As a result, Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha makes half-baked attempts at GVM-ness that never land. In a scene where Joshua and Kundavi flee attackers, Joshua believes he’s about to die. He goes, “Enna saaga vitraadhe. At least un madiyilayaavadhu saagaren” (Don’t let me die. If I have to, let me at least die in your lap), a sentiment that might have worked in another GVM film. But in this one, it feels like a rash from scratching the same itch for too long, you shake your head and move along.

The dialogues are incoherent. Some seem like English phrases awkwardly translated to Tamil, reminiscent of that toothpaste ad going on about parchidhaivu (plaque). The direct English ones are only marginally better. They speak to each other in a way that seems like a parody of old Mani Ratnam films.

Characters are shown and abandoned without a thought. Mansoor Ali Khan, Krishna Kulasekaran, and Vichitra try their best, but the film rebuffs them rather violently. Not once but twice, Joshua speaks of gruesome murder as a justifiable reaction to rape. Once the girl’s brothers commit the murder, another time, a girl’s father commissions it. The women who’ve been raped are not even seen, forget being heard from.

The problem with Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha is that it’s so casual about everything. Besides the action sequences, everything else is explained through dialogue. Maybe we should just be glad it’s not voiceover. Just as we near the climax, the film suddenly turns into a whodunnit. By then, we don’t even want to know who did it.

While I’m no fan of the Gautham Vasudev Menon school of romance, I’ve always respected his commitment to it. I’ve vehemently disagreed with his love stories, like the truly objectionable Guitar Kambi Mele Ninru from Navarasa, yet I respect them for being an artist’s work that he put something of himself into. In fact, Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha is just a collage of scenes from his previous work — something GVM should have been comfortable with. Yet, the film seems like a faint reproduction against a green screen. 

Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha is so bizarrely idgaf, I felt a little sad that GVM has stopped caring.

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.

Ranjani Krishnakumar is a Chennai-based writer. Views expressed are the author's own.

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