Some movies are so pleasing visually, their every shot composed so painstakingly, that you are happy to cut them way more slack than you’d others. Gethu is one such. The whole movie takes place in an unknown hillstation, and so, yes, the exotic locations must have naturally played their part in making the often-misty-looking shots look great. Nevertheless, it’s evident that Sukumar, the cinematographer, and Thirukumaran, the director, have spent hours mulling over the colour tones (blue, for instance, is a dominant theme, with Udhayanidhi and Amy Jackson mostly seen wearing that colour), the lighting, the camera angles, and the locations. That’s not the only pleasant surprise in Gethu . The whole movie bears the flavour of a short-story adaptation, and at a little over two hours, there isn’t too much duration in which to flood the story with masala elements and thoroughly destroy it, although, to its discredit, Gethu certainly does try.
The rather-average Harris Jayaraj songs, for one, look randomly inserted. The first song’s ( Thillu Mullu ) placement is particularly so awful that it’s almost funny. Sethu (Udhayanidhi), a librarian (what an unusual profession for a Tamil protagonist), tries to help Nandini (Amy Jackson) become a news anchor, and a duet bafflingly follows. Making matters worse is the fact that Sethu isn’t really the type of guy to overtly covet women, which incidentally is what the lyrics says too. Oh, and the other hilarious aspect of this entire bit is how Nandini’s goal is to become a news anchor at Doordarshan. That’s not funny by itself, of course, but when you are eventually shown a scene that has Amy Jackson reading news and trying to mouth chaste Tamil (but failing, of course), it almost turns into a skit. It all assumes drastically worse proportions when you realise that there really is no place for a heroine in the story, but Nandini comes and goes anyway.
A thriller, Gethu is about a sniper assassin (Vikranth), and how his mission to eliminate Dr. Abdul Kamaal (the name made me laugh out loud for some reason) interferes with the lives of Sethu and his father, Thulasi Raman, who works as a P.E.T. instructor at a local school. The story seems to hold so much promise at around interval time, especially after that pulsating (and I’m not using the word lightly here) opening fight sequence. As with most great opening fight sequences, the hero is initially reluctant to engage, and just when it’s clear that he’s avoided conflict, he turns around (like in Run ) to calculatedly destroy every single enemy. The slo-mo shots aside, I particularly enjoyed how he wasn’t Tamil-film-fighting his enemies. I’m, of course, referring to the usual fight scenes that have the hero throwing henchmen around like they were made of cotton. Here, Sethu hurts them with almost Sherlock Holmes-like precision: a strike to the ankle, an uppercut, an elbow to the face, you get the idea. I couldn’t but wonder around this time, if it was possible that Sethu was an undercover agent masquerading as a librarian; he engages like a trained fighter after all. But of course, I expected a bit too much, and no explanation is ever given for his sensational fighting prowess, except when Thulasi Raman proudly tells his wife, “ Avan yen pillai di (he’s my son).” On a lighthearted note, it would’ve been interesting had the wife punched him squarely on his face and retorted, “ Avan yen pillai da .”
For most of the film, the twin tracks of Sethu and the sniper assassin run parallelly, until they eventually converge towards the end. Sethu, the protagonist, is naturally tasked with the responsibility of stopping the assassin, but he has a selfish motive: that of rescuing his father from being imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But the problem with Gethu is, there aren’t enough thrilling moments after that opening fight sequence. Even when Sethu eventually come face-to-face with the assassin, the fireworks aren’t what you’d really expect. For what seemed like it was shaping up to be a really smart film, Gethu disappointingly settles to resolving the final dispute with a fist fight. And some of its ideas don’t make too much sense either. I’m not at all sure that it’s efficient for a high-profile killer to take out a petty thug and go to the trouble of framing another person for the murder, only so he can use the thug’s house as the location for a sniper shot. It’s way too convoluted. It’s like identifying a huge tree in an isolated forest, slicing it down secretly, cutting it into logs, slugging the log to a nearby mill to reduce it to pulp, feeding the pulp into a paper-making machine to make paper, and then using it to write a letter. Buy a notebook, damn it.
But Gethu is definitely a welcome relief for those of us who wondered how long Udhayanidhi would go on with comedies that relied not so much on him, but the comedian, usually played by Santhanam. Though Karunakaran plays that role here, he’s more a character artiste than a comedian — another welcome relief. So, as I was walking out, I was thinking about the film being a rather brave exercise on the whole. I was also thinking about the film’s rather random title which seems to suggest a more mass-y film. Or perhaps, they intended to name it after the protagonist, and just misspelled the opening letter?