The last time SJ Suryah and Priya Bhavani Shankar paired up, they gave us Monster. It exuded warmth that is often seen in director Radha Mohan’s works. When it was announced that Suryah and Priya were reuniting for an actual Radha Mohan film, it was natural for anyone to expect Bommai to be a rather wholesome feel-good film. However, it was clear right from the start that it was going to be a psychological thriller. The surprising genre notwithstanding, I was willing to be surprised by the meeting of the worlds of Suryah and Radha Mohan. However, Bommai fails to deliver both the chills of a thriller and the hearty moments of a Radha Mohan directorial.
For a love story to be effective and make the audience root for the protagonist, the romance should either be relatable and realistic or quirky and amusing. Bommai, unfortunately, falls under neither category. The lead characters feel emotionally distant and almost none of the conversations exude a sense of realism. During one such conversation, SJ Suryah’s Rajkumar mocks Nandhini’s (Priya Bhavani Shankar) flowery monologue saying, “Habba, namba Tamil vaathiyar class edutha madhri iruku.” I won’t blame him though, as most of the dialogues make us wonder if any lover would talk like this. When a major focus of the film is intended to make us adore their chemistry, it is quite natural that we feel fidgety sitting through their never-ending conversations.
Watching Bommai might remind us heavily of Kamal Haasan’s Gunaa and the film also carries shades of Kadhalil Vizhundhen. The former is regarded as a classic because halfway through the film we start rooting for a deranged abductor. That X-factor is missing in Bommai because Rajkumar is hallucinating and believes a mannequin is his lady love. The ideal ‘happily ever after’ for Rajkumar would be to pop some prescribed pills, and accept the harsh reality. But the film doesn’t quite advocate for mental health. Throughout the film, Radha Mohan tries to sell Rajkumar’s imaginary romance as an aspirational one, even when he does a series of crimes. I lost it when the cop investigating Rajkumar takes a deep breath and exclaims, “What a fascinating love story!” It is quite shocking that Radha Mohan, who is known for presenting humans in interesting shades has gone with outright black-and-white characters in Bommai. To register Rajkumar as a noble person despite his crimes, his victims are villainised. Bommai also gets the weakest female character in Radha Mohan’s stellar filmography.
Priya played by Chandini Tamilarasan hardly gets any background or agency in the film. The two people who made the most out of Bommai are Suryah and Priya. The film has several sequences showing the inanimate doll transitioning into a girl and it is not an exaggeration when I say the transition is quite seamless because of Priya’s admirably convincing looks. Apart from looking pretty, Priya gives her fullest for the role and I quite liked the portions where she embraces darkness and villainy. Suryah, on the other hand, will be the darling of the juries across and will most likely bag a ton of awards. The man who has always given stand-out performances goes a mile extra for Bommai. The long single-shot sequences where he sells innocence, heartbreak, longingness, and rage with the same finesse can be used as an effective showreel for the actor. Such an invested performance warranted equally potent writing to back it up... but alas!
Bommai becomes the first film of Radha Mohan to carry a rather problematic idea. At a time when we are waking up to the idea that a partner needn’t and shouldn’t be a parental figure, we have a heroine who states, “Namaku odane Kuzhandhai venaam, rendu varsham naan unna valarkanum!” while discussing her marriage wishes. Of course, it is a page out of a man’s imagination and not a real girl. Films too are an outspring of a person’s imagination. But, isn’t it imperative that they get the portrayal right? Especially when it is a man penning a woman...even if she is ‘just a bommai.’
Director: Radha Mohan
Cast: SJ Suryah, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Chandini Tamilarasan