Mersal (Netflix, Tamil): Vijay fans must be very happy, very happy. There are three Vijays in this film, all shaped contoured and moulded into red-hot come-see-about-me avatars.So 3 stars for the eminently enjoyable new Vijay starrer, 1 each for the 3 roles that the superstar embraces like lovers who won’t be parted till kingdom come. Or the apocalypse dodged.
Indeed Vijay’s self-love is celebrated by the rest of the besotted smitten cast who in true Tamil-Telugu tradition of hero-worship keep anointing eulogizing, glorifying and iconizing the super-hero to a point where no criticism is permissible or even plausible. While the entire vast cast that includes three lovely leading ladies (all three so serene and surrounded in a haze of idolatry numbness), can’t stop singing Vijay’s praise he himself seems to be a fan of the legendary M G Ramachandran. How do I know? He has MGR’s pictures on the wall and he even visits a theatre showing an MGR film. Jayalalitha Ji—God bless her departed soul—would have surely approved of this,Vijay’s most fiercely political statement to date.
A simmering discontent runs through Mersal cutting through the action-driven entertainment that Vijay’s devotees expect, and get. A piercing scream of protest punctuated by tender bouts of songs and poetry when A R Rahman takes over for a bit…Plus a surprisingly sermon-free diatribe on medical negligence in our country last seen in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand and Bemisal…Director Atlee fashions a furious fusion of headlines and fantasy accentuating Vijay’s star power with an acumen and alacrity that the Rajinikanth starrer Kabali achieved lately.
Indeed Rajinikanth and now Vijay are the two inheritors of the Tamil political cinema that MGR patented in his heydays. In Mersal Vijay takes on healthcare with a blood-thirsty vengeance. There are aggressive contemptuous references to the Establishment’s failure to provide medical facilities for the poor and needy .And we have Vijay wagging his disapproving finger at the Prime Minister with the words—and I translate poorly—“In Singapore the ill get free treatment although they charge 7 percent GST whereas in India they charge 29 percent GST and still don’t provide free healthcare.”
It takes guts for a matinee idol to talk politics. Not that Mersal is submerged in its own political virtuousness. Not at all! It is remarkable how rapidly the narrative moves through the lacquered lives of three Vijays, their loves and lies,grunts and sighs are all recorded with a reverberant triumph culminating in a feverish finish that would leave the matinee idol’s fans craving for more.And even if you are not a Vijay fan, Mersal won’t leave you wondering what all the fuss is about.
House Next Door(Netflix): Horror as a genre can be horrific in Indian cinema in the most unexpected ways. This one gets it right in spite of following all the horror tropes and signposts including irrelevant attempts to startle and scare. And the habitual horror humbug of heaping too much information on the dark realm.
Nonetheless the work is put together with a great deal of conviction and some amount of belief in the power of the dark to consume light.The plot is set in an idyllic hill station in two adjacent houses. For a film about evil forces lurking in the shadows the camera movements are endearingly tranquil except toward the end when mayhem rules the proceedings.
Siddharth Surynarayan is in control of the proceedings, in more ways than one. He is not only the film’s producer and leading man he is also the co-writer, thereby ensuring a well-oiled movement of creaking-doors plot. Siddharth has always displayed a likeable screen presence and an ability to take control of his characters’ inner life. Here he remains in-charge even when forced to relinquish control of his character’s actions. The rest of the actors, and that includes the very capable Atul Kulkarni, appear either stilted or uncomfortable, or both.Anisha Angelina Victor doing Linda Blair’s possessed act tries hard to move her neck and limbs in impossible directions.
The camera doesn’t help her much. Once the demoniacal pursuits take off , director Milind Rau focuses on creating an aura of dread and destruction.Admittedly some of the serenade with the satanic forces spooks the hell out of us. This is definitely one of the better Indian films of the horror genre.
Image source: IMDb