Velayudham, Bodhidharma and G.One are the three superheroes who lit up the silver screen this Deepavali. sudhish kamath takes a look at the pluses and minuses of the characters
It's not every Friday that you see an Indian superhero film hit the screen. During the Deepavali week, there were three! Three different kinds of superhero films, all watchable despite the shoddy scripting and lenient editing for different reasons.
After embarrassingly bad attempts at superhero movies in the past, our cinema is slowly finding its feet in the superhero space. Not since Mr. India have we got the basics of superhero films right, maybe with the exception of Enthiran where the superhero turns super-villain halfway.
Here's a look at how the three recent superhero flicks fare when compared with one another.
1. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Superheroes are born or created for a purpose. They exist because villains exist.
If G.One is the robot with a heart assigned to keep the all-powerful supervillain Ra.One in check and protect his avatar Lucifer (like Schwarzenegger protecting John Connor in Terminator 2), Bodhidharma is a martial arts warrior from our folklore with telepathic abilities (like Professor X from X-Men) who has to be brought back from the past to fight Chinese intelligence and Velayudham is the vigilante superhero (like Kickass or Batman) who has to save peaceful Chennai from Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. Ra.One is the typically comic book villain who is all out evil, while 7aum Arivu and Velayudham take the jingoistic route to paint China and Pakistan, represented by one all-evil agent/terrorist, as the bad guy in the big picture.
2. Genesis – The Origin Story. Superheroes generally have dramatic origin stories and a rooting in today's world to be relevant.
While G.One, devoid of scientific realism in his origin story, miraculously steps out of the virtual world into the real world and owes his genesis to Indian mythology after his creator is killed, Bodhidharma has to be resurrected after 1600 years through his bloodline by channelling his DNA and genetic memory through an elaborate laboratory experiment and Velayudham finds himself in the superhero's shoes (the costume itself loosely borrowed from Assassin's Creed video game) after a series of unintentional world-saving incidents (like Pink Panther) rooted in the real world. G.One has the weakest origin story of the three, Velayudham relies heavily on coincidence and 7 aum Arivu at least has a broad base in science though the premise of telepathy and hypnotism itself is comic book stuff.
3. What they stand for. The moral of the story.
All three superheroes are manifestations of virtues inherent in all of us. If G.One is simply about textbook old world goodness and doing what is right, Bodhidharma is about looking at our culture through the eyes of science rather than blind superstition and Velayudham is about the desire to protect ourselves from terrorist threats by keeping an eye out and directing our anger for change politically.
It's interesting that Ra.One set in the virtual world invokes mythology, while 7aum Arivu set in the backdrop of mythology invokes science fiction and Velayudham, which plays out like a reworking of Thirupaachi (as he swears to cleanse the city of jihadis instead of rowdies this time), invokes comic book culture with its sense of costuming.
4. Star power and world-saving stunts.
Shah Rukh Khan as G.One and Vijay as Velayudham both stop speeding trains without brakes from a certain disaster, while Suriya as Bodhidharma saves a whole village from a certain epidemic with his extensive knowledge of herbal medicine. Both G.One and Bodhidharma have telepathic and hypnotic powers to manipulate the human mind and play protectors of targets from Terminator-like villains on a mission to kill (It's some co-incidence that both films have Chinese actors in those roles, especially in the chase scenes in London and Chennai respectively when they obstruct traffic and send cars flying). Also, both Suriya and Vijay shed their shirts to show off their chiselled bodies in the final confrontation in an arm-to-arm combat with the respective villains, while Shah Rukh as the robot gets to keep his shirt on this time. As men fronting the superhero fables, Shah Rukh, Suriya and Vijay seem to be perfectly cast.
5. The distractions and the franchise.
While Ra.One despite its weak storyline retains its focus and stages set-piece action sequences at regular intervals interrupted only by songs, 7aum Arivu takes half a film to get to the point after a breezy first act followed by a long-winded romance track and assorted songs. And, Velayudham after its racy first half overstays its welcome long after the best set-piece action sequence (the train scene) is staged in the second half.
If 7aum Arivu needs to be lauded for its experiment to interpret folklore through science fiction, Velayudham is a formulaic star-vehicle with an ironical antithetic message. The hero looks down on people for wanting and waiting for a superhero to save them.
Velayudham, thus, puts an end to the franchise by questioning the very need people have for superheroes, while Ra.One sets it up for a sequel and 7aum Arivu hurriedly ends as a public service advertisement on interpreting culture through science without really milking the opportunity for a sequel.
Best of the three?
Depends on who you are. Ra.One is best enjoyed with kids despite its adult content and is not for the sci-fi geek; Velayudham is a must- watch for Vijay fans and those who like pulp action films such as Narasimha (interesting Velayudham’s rough premise comes from Tirupatisaamy, the director of Narasimha), while 7aum Arivu is for those with an open mind to embrace cinema that makes a sincere effort to do something new. What it tries to do deserves your attention more than how it does it.
Keywords: Deepavali release movies