Spiderman had uncle Ben as his support and sounding board. This ‘Mask’man has his maternal and paternal grandfathers backing him. Even then, this superhero stumbles along and tests your patience. It’s not his fault. Director Mysskin (the man who gave Tamil cinema offbeat cult hits such as Chithiram Pesuthadi, Anjathey and Yuddham Sei) doesn’t give his superhero an improbable task to show his superpowers, if any.
Mask (the dubbed version of the Tamil film Mugamoodi) opens on an intriguing note, showing a gang of men in masks indulge in loot and murder. Top cop Gaurav (Nasser) is summoned to Andhra Pradesh and given the task of clamping down on the gang.
Then, Mysskin introduces us to two schools that teach Kung-fu. The director dedicates the film to Bruce Lee and also names his lead actor after him. Anand (Jiiva) is the best Kung-fu student in his school and is nicknamed Lee. He is devoted to his master and his humble Kung-fu school. Lee stands up against injustice and also hates the opposing school — Dragon Kung-fu school headed by Adi (Narain).
At home, Lee is constantly chided by his father for being a wastrel and finds solace in his grandfathers. His maternal grandfather makes tacky costumes of superheroes and Chinese dragons on orders and his paternal grandfather (Girish Karnad) is busy tinkering with metals. There’s an odd-looking robot at his workshop. Neither are we told why he works on robots nor is his mastery in metallurgy exploited to give the superhero interesting weapons.
Prior to the film’s release, the director maintained that this hero doesn’t have extraordinary powers and the film intends to show that there’s a superhero within each one of us. Even if that argument holds true, the transformation of this hero to a superhero isn’t convincing. He doesn’t even have enough reasons to turn into a superhero. A regular hero who knows his stunts could have done the job in a lesser time.
The Maskman’s primary task is to eliminate the dreaded gang headed by Adi. It’s hilarious how the cops are helpless when the gang walks in and out of the police headquarters at one point to hand over a video. When Nassar makes a media announcement appealing to Maskman to come and help them, there are giggles in the cinema hall.
Mask could have been the ideal platform to nurture a native superhero but it turns out to be an ordeal. There are plenty of interesting elements to watch out for if you are a film student — cinematography techniques (Sathya) and background score (Krishnakumar who calls himself K) remind you of world cinema classics. The action sequences are deftly choreographed adhering to Kung-fu principles and Jiiva executes them with aplomb. The less said about Pooja Hegde and Narain the better. Pooja has a long way to go before she manages to have an arresting screen presence. Narain is meant to be a maniac with quirky mannerisms but we end up laughing at his antics.
The poorly written story and ill-etched characterisation (of Narain, Nasser, the heroine Pooja Hegde) are a big letdown. And the film is a tad too long that you just wait for the climax to be over and done with.
Cast: Jiiva, Nasser, Narain, Girish Karnad, Pooja Hegde and others
Music: K (Krishnakumar)
Plot: A hero who idolises Bruce Lee becomes Maskman and fights against a gang of men who murder and loot.
Bottomline: What could have been an entertaining film of a native superhero turns out to be a drag.