Chimbu Deven who started his career as a cartoonist with the popular Tamil magazine, Ananda Vikatan went on to turn filmmaker with Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi (2006). A period comedy, the film was widely accepted for its novelty and made comedian Vadivelu acceptable as a hero as well. Chimbu Deven then went on to make more films like the contemporary fantasy Arai En 305 il Kadavul (2008), the western comedy Irumbukottai Murattu Singam (2010) and a contemporary tale like Oru Kanniyum Moonu Kalavaanikalum (2014). When it was announced that his next film would be with Vijay it didn’t really surprise me as he did have a decent track record to talk about. But considering that the film in question, Puli was to be a period fantasy adventure, I was quite skeptical. Skeptical only because of the fact that a project like this is expected to be a little too ambitious and isn’t something that everyone can actually deliver.
To add more drama to the whole thing we recently saw S.S.Rajamouli’s Baahubali (part 1) passing the test with flying colours, in the process raising the benchmark considerably for films like Puli and Gunasekhar’s Rudhramadevi. In fact the release dates of both these films went on to get pushed a bit as well, signs of the respective teams taking stock of the situation and leaving no stone unturned to ensure their film’s success perhaps is what one could guess. But Puli definitely had a few things going in its favour, the star-cast was fantastic, apart from Vijay who is extremely popular, the film sees Sridevi returning back to Tamil cinema after ages (ignoring English Vinglish where just a couple of scenes featuring Ajith were shot separately for the Tamil version) and the rest of the cast included prominent names like Sudeep, Shruti Haasan and Hansika Motwani. The film also boasted of top notch technicians like Natarajan Subramanian aka Natty (DOP), A.Sreekar Prasad (editor), Devi Sri Prasad (music) etc.
Hence all eyes were on Vijay, Chimbu Deven and producers P.T.Selvakumar and Shibu Thameens as the release date neared, only for the film to encounter a drama of a different kind. The Income Tax raids on all of them on the eve of the release created a lot of panic as the film’s release got held up due to payment issues and finally the film released on the same day (1st October), albeit after a few hours of delay. I was one of those people who wanted to watch the very first show of the day, only to be disappointed seeing it cancelled. But I made sure that I got my refund and picked up tickets for a show later in the day. Having gone through so much of drama it was but natural for me to hope and expect that the film would be good and that all the effort involved, both by the team to make it and by the common people including fans to watch it would be worth it. So how does Puli finally emerge? Does this tiger actually emerge all powerful and keep us on our toes? Well read on to know more.
- Puli is a film which in all probability was better suited as a children’s film, a la Jajantram Mamantram (2003) in Hindi or Athbutha Dweepu (2005) in Malayalam, as it has all the necessary ingredients needed for a good children’s fantasy film.
- A kingdom run by an evil sorceress, Queen Yavanarani (Sridevi) who in turn is controlled by the actual villain, Thalapathy Jalatharangan (Sudeep), the upright hero who stands for the people, Pulivendhan (Vijay) being bumped off by Jalatharangan, only to have his descendant Marudheeran (who else but Vijay again) come back to set right things-now isn’t this not a tale that we have all seen/heard from time immemorial? What was needed was for the execution to work.
- So the dashing hero has not one but 2 different avatars, both portraying different dimensions, ultimately being for the good of the common man.
- Don’t worry, all work and no play makes Jack or rather Marudheeran a dull boy, so he has two lovely ladies for company, Pavazhamalli (Shruti Haasan) and Princess Manthagini (Hansika Motwani). Both are there to bring in the glamour quotient and be seen in the songs, nothing more than that. But I must admit that Shruti Haasan does look like a dream in the film, making you almost overlook aspects like how would a normal village girl those days be sent to a different place for further education or be sexily and smartly attired :).
- Well this is meant to be a commercial entertainer and should have its share of comedy as well right? Well of course, there are multiple actors capable of doing well in terms of humour- Thambi Ramaiah, Sathyan, Ali (come on the film has been dubbed in Telugu so we need actors known to the audience there as well right?), Vidyullekha Raman, Robo Shankar, Imman Annachi etc. Sadly none of them leave any impact; most of their portions are annoying and an eyesore at times. Like why would you want to see Thambi Ramaih (with a ridiculous moustache shaped hair style) lick a tadpole,again & again?
- A film like this is supposed to be larger than life right? After all what’s a fantasy tale if it doesn’t astonish us in terms of scale and grandeur. Well a lot of effort has gone into ensuring that the VFX quality is impressive and I must say that R.C.Kamalakannan and his team have done quite well for the kind of budget and resources available in their hands. The castle portions in the second half in particular are well done. But in terms of the village that Marudheeran,Vembunathan (Prabhu) and Pavazhamalli belong to for example, the lack of innovation clearly shows.
- The writing by Chimbu Deven definitely is also to be blamed a bit for the final outcome, the dialogues lack the sheen required for a tale like and the comedy dialogues are in particular actually annoying. If a film like this falters both in execution and writing then would the outcome actually turn out to be satisfactory? There are no surprises at all except perhaps for Sudeep’s introduction which is well done indeed. The advent of Pulivendhan doesn’t take the audience by surprise; it’s almost as if everyone was expecting it.
- When you have the hero portraying two characters I am sure the director definitely would like to portray them differently, starting with their physical appearance. But while Marudheeran sports a hair style and facial hair in a manner that would please anyone today, Pulivendhan’s get up is quite tacky and appears to have been added as an afterthought, not acceptable in a film of this magnitude.
- And wait I really don’t get the constant reference to “Vedhalam” in the movie, was it a pun on Ajith’s forthcoming of the same name or what? And hey I do know it is a fantasy film but does that mean you can show someone painting his eyeballs to pass off as a vedhalam, only to eventually remove it off later in the film as if the paint had converted itself naturally to contact lenses :), guess no room for logic here.
- The songs (lyrics by Vairamuthu) by Devi Sri Prasad don’t make much of an impact, the best of the lot indeed is “Yendi Yendi” (sung by Shruti Haasan and Vijay) while the infectious “Jingilia Jingilia” (sung by Javed Ali and Pooja A.V) is let down in terms of its picturisation, appearing quite silly actually.
- Even if I would not want to compare Puli with Baahubali its important to note that the film does not really have any standout moments worth remembering, surprising considering that a film of this magnitude certainly demands the same. Whatever you end up remembering is also for the wrong reason perhaps, not really what Chimbu Deven wanted I guess. Take for example the way casually a baby is found floating on a river along with a bird’s egg, the bird even turning out to be one which can talk. Both the baby and the egg are given shelter and adopted, but where’s the impact created during all this? There’s no drama whatsoever and everything happens way too casually.
- For all the talk of Sridevi’s return to Tamil cinema I’d say that her make up is overdone and she doesn’t really come across as all that effective. If the idea was to invoke fear through her character then neither Marudheeran, nor the audience felt it.
- Vijay does well within the scope of both the characters that he gets to portray, sadly there is nothing much for him to do that he hasn’t done before. Despite being his first fantasy film he treats the characters the same way as he would have in any other film of his, thus not making any major difference at all.
- What does one actually take away from the film eventually? Well for one perhaps the thought that it is a film which doesn’t really deliver the way it should have. Neither does it have an arresting story, nor outstanding performances or even standout moments. Yes the film looks good visually and boasts of some neat VFX/CGI work, but would that alone for make for a landmark film, I don’t really think so.
- Finally the question of why did the makers not go all the way and push the film as a true blue children’s fantasy tale and do a good job of the same? What it has turned out to be eventually is content which is neither a proper film for children, nor something for the audience in general who is expecting a grand visual extravaganza.
It’s not often that filmmakers get to helm an ambitious fantasy adventure like this and a film like Puli either works or doesn’t work there’s nothing in between. Chimbu Deven was lucky enough to get an opportunity to leave a solid impression, unfortunately he has faltered down the way and hence Puli ends up as a film that is disappointing eventually.