When the superstar becomes too big for human adversaries, who would he fight? Not his inner demons, for there is no scope for flexing of muscles. A wild beast, probably. Thus was made Pulimurugan , in which the “complete actor” takes on man-eating tigers that stray into Puliyoor, a hamlet that borders the jungle.
Vysakh, who has helmed a few mass entertainers, has literally taken on a heavy load here, a kind of wish fulfilment of the Malayali audience — a superhero who could match those churned out by Telegu and Bollywood cinema. Pulimurugan (Mohanlal) is presented to us as the savior of the entire village. We spend half an hour on the back story, of his father getting mauled, of the young Murugan plotting revenge and later making it his life mission to kill tigers that stray into the village. The story also draws on familiar myths, by giving Murugan a ‘vel’ (spear), aiding in building the Godly aura around the hero.
We are thus primed towards a particularly one-sided take on man-animal conflict, which could make the ‘Save the tiger’ project members squirm. For the budget that it was made, the visuals of the fights are convincing, and unintentionally comic at times, like when he uses a flying knife to cut off the tiger’s teeth. Also, the flexibility of the man to execute some of those tough moves at this age, deserves applause.
But this new packing of the superstar, a tad bit unfamiliar to us, can be misleading. Scratch the surface and it’s the same old, not pure gold. For instance, there are those host of characters whose only purpose is to sing paeans of the hero, like those umpteen films from his twirled moustache days of the 1990s and 2000s. There are also the jokers, who revel in tasteless double-entendres.
Then there are the women. One, Pulimurugan’s wife Myna, played by Kamalini Mukherjee who keeps the same grumpy expression throughout the movie. And Julie (Namitha), the vamp, who is out to seduce the alpha hero. This nauseating track, of all the women on screen, being enamoured of this one man, is something which mysteriously repeats across many of our superstar movies. Wonder whose fantasies the scriptwriters are playing out — their own? Those of the fans’? Or of the stars themselves?
Probably realizing that the people would get bored of all the tiger tussles, human villains are brought in close to the interval. The arch villain (Jagapati Babu) unfortunately carries perhaps the most comical name ever for a villain in Indian cinema — “Daddy Girija”. This track, which drives the rest of the movie, is woven on a familiar drug racket thread. In place of the single tigers come hundreds of goons, who are destined to be beaten black and blue, singlehandedly by Murugan.
Pulimurugan ’ is a loud celebration of the superstar and his age-bending agility, which will endear it to the diehard fans. For those looking for the lesser mortal, the everyday man and an ounce of logic, it is bound to be a mammoth disappointment.