Watching Jilla after Veeram, you could be forgiven for experiencing déjà vu. Both films are set in Madurai. If the hero there hated the idea of marriage, this hero (Vijay) hates cops. Thambi Ramaiah plays a buffoon from the heroine’s family there; he plays a buffoon from the heroine’s family here. Here, too, the hero is fatherless, the heroine (Kajal Aggarwal) is role-less. Here too, an action sequence involves a truck smashing into a car, and there’s a chase where the hero tries not to let the passenger(s) in his car know that they are in danger.

What’s new in Neason’s Jilla is the presence of Mohanlal. He plays Shiva, a Nayakan-like figure who seems unsure whether he is a nallavan (he helps the needy through unconstitutional means) or a kettavan (he’s essentially a rowdy who lords over everyone else by strong-arming them). This part needs Mohanlal, who shows us how a good actor with good screen presence can keep us from laughing a poorly written character off the screen.

The plot is essentially that of Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti with reversed polarities (Vijay’s character is even named Shakti). Here, the father is the criminal, the son the unwavering cop. This sort of setup needs to play out as rock-solid drama. We need situations like, say, Shakti storming out of his father’s house after a clash of ideologies. But Neason doesn’t care about any of that (We barely register that Shakti seems to be living elsewhere after he becomes a cop). He wants to fashion a Vijay showcase that allows the actor to remain in his lightweight comfort zone.

So every attempt at seriousness is punctured instantly by a stab at comedy, and the film never seems comfortable with its subject (Shakti’s transformation comes off looking especially ridiculous). A.R. Murugadoss, with Thupakki, made the ideal Vijay vehicle, never letting the stakes get too serious. But that’s different from there being no stakes at all, with everything looking preordained. Some nice tunes by Imman apart, there’s nothing in Jilla to justify the three-hour running time. But try telling that to the delirious fans.

Jilla

Genre: Mass masala

Director: Neason

Cast: Mohanlal, Vijay, Kajal Aggarwal

Storyline: Something to keep a hero’s fans happy

Bottomline: Well, if you’re a fan, do you really need a bottomline?

Keywords: Jilla review