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‘Dharala Prabhu’ movie review: Tamil remake of ‘Vicky Donor’ is a squandered opportunity

Harish Kalyan and Tanya Hope in ‘Dharala Prabhu’

Harish Kalyan and Tanya Hope in ‘Dharala Prabhu’  

Harish Kalyan’s film takes aim, but misses its objective of sensitising the Tamil audience to the concept of sperm donation, by quite some distance

Unless you are in a tearing hurry to remake a popular film from another language, the concept of time allows a filmmaker space for two things.

One, the adapted screenplay could be tighter and crisp (if he/she does not believe in the concept of ‘remaining faithful to the original’). Two, if you have anyway decided to tweak the script to suit ‘cultural sensitivities’ of the audience you are remaking the film for, why not show maturity in your writing and hit two taboos with one stone. Dharala Prabhu fails in both respects.

 

Eight years ago, when Vicky Donor — a light-hearted take on the hush-hush subject of sperm donation — found its way to theatres, it managed to elevate interest among young Indians eager to figure out what, whom and how they could help. But Dharala Prabhu, despite drawing off Vicky Donor’s core idea, is not a film that could remotely influence anything among a thinking audience, because its director Krishna Marimuthu seems confined, and more confused, with his line of social messaging.

But first things first. What is Tamil cinema’s sudden fascination with the game of football? You’d understand trends like heroes wanting to grow their hair out after Vikram did so in Anniyan. But seriously, why is every hero now wanting to lace a pair of boots and kick a football around? One cannot be too sure if Harish Kalyan underwent some sort of training for his five-a-side pitch theatrics, but judging by the result, it was time he could have instead used to work on his screen presence and to help develop the general range of emotions one expects of an actor these days.

Prabhu Govind (Harish Kalyan), as you have guessed already, is a ‘footballer’ who plays five-a-side games, and aspires to land a job through sports quota from an employment exchange. Dr Kannadasan Meiyappan (an over-the-top Vivekh) is a fertility specialist who promises great many things to his prospective clients, but he needs to find that one healthy donor who could make his tall claims come true. Nidhi Mandanna’s (Tanya Hope) brief from the director seems to be the femme fatale in every exchange, which, if you think about it, is a bit weird when the character has to grieve.

Dharala Prabhu
  • Director: Krishna Marimuthu
  • Cast: Harish Kalyan, Vivekh, Tanya Hope, RS Shivaji
  • Storyline: A fertility specialist convinces a youngster to donate sperms. When he agrees, little does the man realise that his would come back to haunt him

Kannadasan tries all the tricks in the book to coax Prabhu to turn a donor, but he refuses. A situation with his coach, where the latter says that his fragile male ego was the reason why he could not fulfill his wife’s wish to be a parent, is what nudges Prabhu over the edge and he agrees to help Kannadasan. Things are going well, but soon Prabhu falls in love with Nidhi and, eventually, gets married to her. Soon their happily-ever-after is complicated when Nidhi learns she cannot conceive, but one plot twist awaits. Will Prabhu emerge unscathed and manage to keep his family together?

Kannadasan, who seems to be the director’s voice (for all purposes) and the voice of reason as well in the film, is someone who believes in the concept of “children bring families together”. But this viewpoint, I assume, is only valid if said family consists of a heterosexual couple. Eight years on from Vicky Donor, it would have made sense for a Tamil filmmaker to push boundaries and centre this plot on a lesbian couple. That’s an opportunity missed.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in Dharala Prabhu is that the concept of sperm donation is seldom discussed, or does not come across as a major influencer across the story line, except in only the link scenes. Which suggests that the writing could have done with two more levels of refinement. The narrative instead chugs along around the protagonist being a goofy, “likeable”, pseudo-hunk padded up by romantic scenes and songs that are a major drag on the screenplay. Don’t get me wrong, it is not poor film-making; it is just plainly uninspiring.

Dharala... also contradicts itself a lot. Prabhu Govind, earlier on in the film, comes across as someone not too keen on kids because, you know, kids... they are a multitude of problems packaged in a tiny one feet-long blob of a human being. Then, a scene that makes Nidhi fall in love with him has Prabhu argue with a man, who has carelessly let his boy play with waves, where he says, unconvincingly, “Avan avan kuzhandai illama thavichittu irukaan.”

One more example of how a re-imagined plot could have worked better for Dharala... is when the lead male discovers that a child he adopts could actually be his. This moment comes half-way into the second half. Had Krishna Marimuthu wanted a goofball comedy, this could have been the perfect interval block sequence. Another opportunity missed.

I’m of the opinion that a better way of making ideas fit seamlessly across cultures is to treat them as a commonplace occurrence, and not whip up an imagined frenzy around it. Like, if a couple are in a live-in together relationship, do not call attention to the fact in your screenplay, leave it to the audience’s understanding. Like how Dharala Prabhu does not whistle from atop lighthouses about the lead pair’s on-screen smooch. Couples in love do kiss. It really is no big deal, and that is how cultural sensitivites ought to be smoothened.

But this remake squanders its primary objective. The film ought to have sensitised the Tamil audience to the concept of sperm donation. Unfortunately, Krishna Marimuthu manages to take aim, but misses by quite some distance.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:22:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/dharala-prabhu-movie-review-tamil-remake-of-vicky-donor-is-a-squandered-opportunity/article31060333.ece

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