Cast: Vishal, Keerthy Suresh, Rajkiran, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
With this week's release, Sandakozhi 2, Tamil cinema continues with its compulsive urge to rework and defavourise beloved older films, under the guise of sequels. It was Saamy Square last month, Singam 3 last year... The first of all these franchises were films that were built on solid masala foundations. Seen today, they are self-contained films; appreciable products of their era - a time when the new-age action tropes (which cleverly capitalized on the strengths and limitations of the lead man) came to be served red hot. So, why and how do these clearly underwhelming extensions get made? While the evident box-office numbers answer the 'why', the 'how' still remains a mystery. Is it because the 'log-line', as the one-line summary is called, sounded good enough to accommodate a handful of mass scenes? The one-line in Sandakozhi 2 is that a son and his father have to protect a young man from an evil woman who has sworn vengeance on his entire clan. Not bad at all. But what about the second line? And the third line? The villains? The pay-offs?
These questions run in your head when a film is 152 minutes long, and entertainment short. Consider, for instance, the first half of Sandakozhi 2, which ideally should have introduced the conflict and significantly furthered it by the time we arrive at the half-way point. But what we get instead is a meticulous cyclical scene-pattern, which relentlessly repeats. Village bigwigs gather at public places and reel out arbitrary suggestions every once in a while. Rajkiran delivers 'gyaan' about family pride and the sanctity of his vows every fifteen minutes. Vishal sends 'aruva'-wielding henchmen into orbit in freeze-frames, and reels out punches like, "Pulivesham podalaam. Aana pulikku munnadi vesham poda kudaadhu". Keerthy Suresh comes every once in a while, laughing. The leads break into a romantic jig in a random scenic spot with disregard of overall happenings. Varalaxmi Sarathkumar appears out of nowhere and screams her head off, almost killing unwitting bystanders in the process. The Munishkanth-Ganja Karuppu duo cut sorry figures at comedy. And as a result, at half-time, you stand at the exact same point you found yourself at the pre-credits, conflict-wise. Nothing much has transpired. The young man still needs to be protected. The evil woman is still baying for blood. The father-son duo is still not sure of their priorities. The emotional beats, buried so deep, become hardly discernible in the second half.
You don't go to films like these expecting gritty narrative arcs and fleshed-out character journeys, you might argue. Even if you are to let these pass, and watch out for 'mass' moments, Sandakozhi 2 doesn't offer much. One of the main reasons the first film worked was the anticipatory tension in the 'mass' scenes. It's what crept past the logic centers in the brain and gave way to some thrashy fun. We were kept in the dark in almost all the action stretches, unable to predict the outcome of the scene, because Vishal was more of a boy-next-door then, completely devoid of his action-star image. When he exploded into that ruthless man in the interval block, all the teases felt worthwhile. But when the same tropes are repeated here with the star that Vishal is today, the never-ending build-ups to the (not-so-innovative) action set-pieces become a painful exercise, especially knowing very well that the hero will, anyway, make an appearance to save the day. The same scenes aren't exciting anymore.
It's a masala star-vehicle that cannot get its leading man a decent introduction scene, or for that matter, a worthy villain. It seems that the plan was to throw in Vishal, Rajkiran, the flavor du jour heroine, four songs, four fights and a bunch of character actors from Sandakozhi, and hope the rest would write itself.