There was a lot of expectation riding on Dora - blame it on how much of an impact Nayanthara made in Maya. Unfortunately, Dora simply isn't in the same league (or garage, if we're going to use car puns). The 136 minute film that shuns the need for a love interest and unnecessary characters, starts off promisingly and runs like a well-kept Ambassador till the interval. After that pit stop, the ride gets bumpy - teetering along jerkily until the engine finally packs in and all that's left is for you to call an uber.
Nayanthara plays Pavalakodi, a headstrong young woman who has a penchant for making grandiose challenges everything someone ticks her off. When her uncle and aunt refuse them a free ride in their call taxi, the father-daughter duo decide to start their own taxi service - so they scrimp and scrounge and head to the car dealership where Nayan is drawn to an old Austin Cambridge that spookily calls to her via wind crime effects and spooky sounds. Nayanthara is refined, cute, funny when she needs to be and looks petrified during the scary scenes. Despite the script, decidedly a win for her as an actress.
Which brings us to Thambi Ramaiah, who plays Nayanthara's doting, bumbling, self-sacrificing father Vairakannu. Is there a finer actor today in Tamil cinema who can play as many different characters with such elan, such precision, display such a range of emotions, be so absolutely comic in every situation without seeming obtrusive? Perhaps. But there will always be only one Thambi Ramaiah. And it is a delight to watch him in Dora. It's also a pity that he is relegated to a corner as the story gets 'serious' - it might have been a lot better if they'd let him continue in the same vein.
There's a lot of fun and banter through this phase of the movie, which led me to believe that this would be as much fun as any of other gazillion movies in this horror-comedy bracket. Not quite. Once the car starts driving itself, making weird noises and killing random men, things get serious. But never scary.
What's truly irksome about Dora is that, as a script, it has tons of potential. How many other canine-car-horror movies do you know of? It's just that the reveals, those moments that you wait for just so that you can be overwhelmed and go 'woah, did not see THAT coming', are so weak and impactless that it's nothing short of criminal. That's precisely what transformed Maya from a regular horror flick into the refined, well made film that it was. Doss Ramasamy will possibly look back and wonder if they'd been a little too unromantic at the editing table.
Otherwise, the cinematography is great, some of the frames are incredibly shot - especially those involving Nayanthara at a weird ancestral temple in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night. The music works for the most part. The VFX team deserve a pat on the back, considering they've probably made this movie on a tightish budget.
When you're through watching Dora, possibly the only horror film in recent history to not feature ghouls, banshee and their ilk, you will ask yourself why on earth the censor board chose to slap the Nayanthara-starrer with an A certificate.
The horror, the parts with the spooky revenge-seeking Austin Cambridge, is muted, the humour is unbelievably clean and there is little, if any, violence and bloodshed. In fact, even if you were to mathematically sum up all the violence that Dora contains and match it in part to something like Singam 3, you'd find that it has even less bloodshed and fisticuffs than Surya's opening fight sequence.
This, the only logical reasons for the A certificate, that occur to me, are because:
a) In addition to being thieves and murderers, the band of bad guys are also rapists
b) There is a scene where a child is portrayed as being sexually abused
c) Women, even if they star in movies without a hero, are not allowed to kill even for revenge. Sends the wrong idea perhaps?
On an unrelated note, perhaps there's enough fact to back him on this call - but to use Hindi-speaking migrant North Indian workers as your antagonists at a time when they're already being seen a star root of all evil in a city like Chennai, may just have a few longstanding repercussions. Don't believe me? If it can happen to a Nigerian in Noida, believe you me it can happen to a Bihari in Besant Nagar.
Director: Doss Ramasamy
Cast: Nayanthara, Thambi Ramaiah