Cast: Satheesh, Balu, Sunu Lakshmi, Prabhu Sathish
There is no painless way of saying this. The only Tamil release this week, Pavithran’s Dharavi, is unbearable. The theatre, where I had to endure this merciless assault on my senses, billed the film as a ‘romantic comedy’. I realised later that this was the only worthy joke the makers had managed to pull off -- a joke on me. Parts of Dharavi play out like a C-grade sleaze fest, where a joker and his cohort annoy the hell out of the audience with their pathetic attempts at comedy.
Parts of it come across as a police procedural, written and staged by people with the sensibilities of second-graders. The acting is atrocious, and the lip-sync non-existent. Just when you think things couldn’t get worse, a tribal song with a wet-saree clad heroine breaks out of nowhere. People randomly go on chasing and hitting sprees, which seem to go on forever. Insert erratically vile stuff in the garb of humour, and mind-numbingly bad expositions in the name of twists. At the half-way point, despite the compelling urge to run, I buried myself deeper into my popcorn tub, for fear of making eye-contact with others in the theatre. This is the kind of film where you don’t want to be spotted.
Dharavi, thus, is very much a masochistic exercise. And one which it’s near impossible to write about in any meaningful way. But since I have a job to do here, I’ll start by wondering how these films even get made in the first place. Made on a shoe-string budget with lesser known actors, all these films seem to want is to make a quick buck by luring in the occasional, poorly informed viewer.
Before word gets out about the film, the damage is done, and dusted. But why don’t the makers aspire for a certain level of quality? Why not spend a few extra months, hire a script doctor and address the giant crater-sized loopholes? Why not take the minimal effort to at least re-imagine the clichés so that the viewer is not bored to death? Why must the comedy be so crude and distasteful? Why keep bombarding us with the stalest of backstories? Such a film works only if the individual pieces work — if the comedy sequences make you chuckle, if the suspense element plays out intelligently, if the taste of the audience is not condescended on.
None of this happens in Dharavi. What we get here instead, is not a film, but loads and loads of endless baloney. Its only achievement is that after a while, you are desensitised to the developments. But even that it doesn’t do well, and we’re left with a dull desire for things, maybe even life itself, to end.