A few years ago, retail magnate Legend Saravanan appeared in the commercial for his Legend Saravana Stores. The man, who had only experienced backstage popularity earlier, was now subjected to incessant trolls that particularly targeted his looks. The quote-unquote 'audacious' move had a reverse effect of sorts, with the negative publicity only attracting more eyeballs. Exhibiting remarkable confidence, Saravanan decided to take a step further and produce and act in his own movie, with long-forgotten director duo JD-Jerry helming the project.
Perhaps it is with this same confidence, that Saravanan swoops onto the screen in The Legend and shatters the fourth wall with a note of gratitude to audience. The fourth wall is dead for good; there is no rebuilding it, and we begin to willingly suspend our belief. We then get scenes after scenes of what seem like commercials for awareness programmes. At one point, an outline of a woman's body on a blackboard is redrawn into that of Mahatma Gandhi to drive forward a point. To make matter worse, every time Saravanan is about to speak to the audience, the camera finds its way to his front almost like a warning sign. Add the tacky set designs, bright costumes, excessive make-up — and Saravanan walking in slow motion — it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the film looks oddly similar to the many Saravana Stores commercials.
Even if one manages to turn a blind eye to all that, the screenplay doesn’t move an inch from a regular bad commercial potboiler. It isn’t difficult to ascertain the ideas that might have been agreed upon between the directors and the producer. A hero has to fight for a noble cause; in this case, it is the quest to find a cure for diabetes. Now, one can’t resist the urge to make him go against a medical mafia. Then, insert random shots set in multiple foreign locations. Also, a few duet songs between the heroine and the white knight hero. Not making the protagonist suffer a terrible loss might hurt. Finally, add a few ‘unforeseen’ twists as garnish.
In between all these, we somehow get a story. Saravanan plays Dr Saravanan, a world-renowned scientist. The tagline might actually be his last name for all you know, given the number of times it accompanies his name. After returning to his hometown Pooncholai in Tamil Nadu, he takes it upon him to help the student class. He falls in love with Thulasi (Geethika Tiwari), a professor and gets married. After a few unfortunate events in his hometown, Saravanan begins his research to cure diabetes which doesn’t sit well with an international medical mafia headed by VJ (Suman), whose scenes strangely have Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata playing in the background. But who has time to ask these questions?
The film takes enormous time to reach this conflict, despite it never seeming to pause anywhere. Even during an intense dialogue exchange, the camera doesn't linger, even on Saravanan. Don't be surprised if you relate to the sigh of exhaustion from Mansoor Ali Khan's character. Blame the poor screenwriting, we hardly even try to question the emotional graph of the lead characters or care for their motives. In the world of The Legend, after a woman's house is torched down by assailants, she happily walks into the next shot and shakes a leg with our hero. If a human drug trial goes south and Saravanan breaks into a duet the very next scene, why should one question it?
The staging of the scenes also seem outdated, making one wonder if JD-Jerry failed to update themselves in their 20-year hiatus from mainstream filmmaking. Audiences have evolved and we no longer need a sudden downpour of both rain and melodrama to feel for a character's death. Dialogue writing is another vexing point; terming a death by diabetes as 'sweet suicide' is another sign of a film lost cause.
Although all these are unforgivable flaws that speak of a terrible movie, the experience of watching The Legend on a packed screen is a rather enjoyable one. You read that right. For instance, when Saravanan suffers a terrible loss and cries his heart out, the audience bursts into laughter. This happens every time the actor is forced into an intense situation that requires him to emote much. Perhaps the ghosts of his popular trolls have followed him to the big screen, and like his previous attempts, this might end up working in his favour given how bizarre it is to watch a campy film as such with no care in the world.
Sadly, The Legend also fails to consistently be hilarious in its long 160-minute runtime. On top of it all, this is also a film that ridiculously uses Vivekh, even making one feel guilty for disliking the role of the late legendary actor.
The Legend is currently running in theatres