‘Dagaalty’ movie review: Misogyny, sexism and mediocrity defines Santhanam's latest

A still from Santhanam starrer Dagaalty.  

Can Tamil cinema really survive without some of the unprincipled stereotypes it has helped cultivate? The short answer is no, if Dagaalty is to be used as a yardstick.

A feature length advertisement for how smoking gives fresh ideas — and, of course, of the 'loosu ponnu' stereotype — Dagaalty looks like it takes place in the alternate reality called Cinemapatti, conceptualised by C.S. Amudhan in his seminal work named Thamizh Padam.

The railway station found in Jayam, Winner and in Thamizh Padam finds presence. A fight sequence with Stunt Silva unfolds in the same location as where Singam's climax was shot. The woman's family goes in search of her in white SUVs. There is a market fight scene. Manobala appears for exactly two shots. Oh, and there is also the item song!

  • Director: Vijay Anand
  • Cast: Santhanam, Rittika Sen, Radha Ravi, Yogi Babu, Tarun Arora
  • Story line: A conman lures a naive girl to Mumbai under the pretext of helping her make a film with Shah Rukh Khan. He hands her over to the antagonists in exchange for huge money, but later develops a soft corner and wins her back.

The plot follows the lives of Guru (Santhanam) and Malli (Rittika Sen); the former is a conman, the other is a 'loosu ponnu'. Guru has a task: lure Malli to Mumbai, so he can complete his end of the bargain in order for a goonda (Radha Ravi, playing Bhaiya) to spare his life. This charade is kicked off by the main antagonist's (played by Tarun Arora) fetish to sleep with the women he draws in a portrait. Though he appears to breathe testosterone, Arora's Vijay Samrat character is nothing more than a glorified wimp who eventually submits to the most basic of happily ever-afters.

Casual misogyny and sexism

Basic is what Dagaalty is. The film fails to elicit even the most basic of smiles despite combining two of the best known funny men in Tamil cinema — Santhanam and Yogi Babu. It makes use of basic plot points, with some casual misogyny and sexism thrown in for good measure; it also has super basic scenes (like when Yogi Babu steals the camera from a foreigner, or when the fire of love is lit by the hero touching the heroine's 'iduppu' in what can only be described as a numb scene) and the most basic of climaxes.

Watching Dagaalty, it is hard to figure out the ecosystem in which Santhanam's films thrive. They are always made on a relatively low budget (the lead characters use a maximum of three costumes for the entire film), and hence present little to nil financial risk for him as its producer. But such films present a big risk... for us, the viewing public.

As the antagonist snorts cocaine in the climax to prepare for a forced consummation with the heroine — who has also been drugged, and yet she still remains the 'loosu ponnu' — we wonder if Arora could pass a bit off that white stuff to us as well so as to save us from the inordinate trip that Santhanam's films appear to be these days.

Despite the wafer thin plot, Dagaalty could have been a passable action film. Stunt Silva's action choreography is believably menacing to buy Santhanam as an action hero. But the problem is with Vijay Anand also wanting Dagaalty to be a screwball comedy at some level. Brahmanandam's addition as China Madhan is an example. Consequently, the film goes for a toss.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 3:22:27 AM |

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