One of the first things that get asked of a remake is how faithful it is to the original. The incessant comparison with the original version is a curse of the remake. It is a shadow the new film usually cannot escape from. Perhaps this is why remakes rarely try to step away from the universe of the first film. A refreshing example of a remake that pleasantly surprised was Simmba — the energy an over-the-top Ranveer Singh and Rohit Shetty created were entertaining. While not as effective, director Krishna Marimuthu, with Dharala Prabhu, still gives a fairly likeable remake of the very popular Vicky Donor.
The film isn’t a frame-by-frame adaptation.
I liked that Krishna Marimuthu and his writers (Subu/Sudharshan Narasimhan) have largely retained the ethos of Vicky Donor, albeit with a South-Indian twist. Prabhu (Harish Kalyan) begins donating sperm not because he wants ‘pocket money’ like Vicky does, but because he thinks of it as a ‘good deed’. Dr. Kannadasan (Vivekh) doesn’t just find his ‘Dharala Prabhu’ by accident. There’s a thorough check on his habits and routine. (They could have avoided the Raja Parambarai angle.) Prabhu’s mother (Anupama Kumar) and grandmother (Sachu) don’t bond over alcohol; here, they do over cards. Even the Prabhu-Kannadasan dynamic has been tweaked to a more involved equation that is almost father-son like, to suit the personas of Harish Kalyan and Vivekh.
Not all of these tweaks land as effectively as they should though. Take the Prabhu-Nidhi (Tanya Hope) relationship. The couple has memorable standalone moments, like when Nidhi takes him along to a wedding because she doesn’t want to go alone and bear the brunt of unnecessary questions. In another Tamil film, the girl would have been crucified for being an ‘opportunist’.
Here, Prabhu instead says, “Well, you have told me that you feel safe with me, and also, that you are single.” Or how about when Nidhi says that she earns enough to ensure that they have a comfortable life? However, the charm of these occasional moments don’t translate into sparkling chemistry; Kannadasan and Kama (RS Shivaji) share more exciting chemistry than the couple.
(Not to mention, Prabhu-Nidhi’s relationship begins on shaky ground). The thread around Prabhu and his relationship with his coach also feels very contrived. Also, the film’s production and art design look a bit too sleek for my comfort. If a lower-middle-class family can afford to run a parlour and house that looks as good, I should probably reconsider my career options. On the other hand, the clinic, a more appropriate choice to reflect some sophistication, looks a tad shady. It is this intermittent superficiality that hampers Dharala Prabhu. While Harish Kalyan pulls his weight, for the most part, the film also needed a more dynamic female lead. Tanya Hope looks pretty but adds little to her character.
Vivekh as the self-deprecating, relentless Dr. Kannadasan is probably Dharala Prabhu’s biggest strength. An in-form Vivekh makes this ride thoroughly enjoyable with a lot of throwbacks to his classic antics. I swear I laughed out loud when Vivekh says, “Ettu la sani, Mount Road la guni’’, when someone asks him why he isn’t married. There is a lot of clever writing in the humour that plays to Vivekh’s strength of memorable one-liners. (Watch out for the one with the ‘bell icon’). It reminded me of an era that used our comedians also as character actors.
Our senior actors aced on both counts, and also provided a lot more depth to their characters, than they are able to in recent times. The mosaic soundtrack was another pleasant surprise. Being an ardent follower of all the eight artists involved, it was nice to hear all of their work seamlessly blend into one another.
There’s also a lot of self-awareness in Dharala Prabhu (I liked how Krishna Marimuthu slipped in a gaffe about himself and also sneaked in a lesbian couple). It is indicative of someone clear about his restrictions and his strengths. Had the film been more consistent though, it would have been a bigger winner.
Movie: Dharala Prabhu
Director: Krishna Marimuthu
Producer: Screen Scene Media Entertainment