Meaghamann: A pretty decent action-adventure

A scene from Meaghamann  

A young drug cartel employee named Siva is shown to be a bad shot — such a bad shot that he misses even the outermost circle of the target board in front of him. (The bullet pathetically pierces the surrounding wooden frame instead.) A little later, Siva is shown to be having an affair with a cop’s wife. Someone trails him and sees him loitering outside the cop’s house, and after the cop leaves, he looks around furtively and goes past the doors the wife holds open for him. We don’t believe a minute of it. We don’t believe that Siva is a drug cartel employee. We don’t believe that he’s a bad shot. And we don’t believe that he is having an affair. We don’t believe these things because Siva is played by Arya, and the hero, in Tamil cinema cannot be painted in these colours. Sure enough, the scene soon arrives where Siva aims his gun at the same target board and pumps bullets through the very hole that his earlier bullet made. And then he repeats the action with his left hand. Now we’re talking.

We discover, soon enough, what Siva really does for a living — though he’s not, as his neighbor Usha (Hansika Motwani) imagines, a software engineer. Why does she imagine this? I have no answer. Heck, the director Magizh Thirumeni probably has no answer. The poor man had to shoehorn Usha into his story because you cannot make a movie without a heroine, and once you hire one, you have to give her something to do — like imagining Siva is a software engineer… in the US. Apparently, it’s written in her horoscope that she will marry someone who lives abroad. After two minutes with Usha, you begin to wonder if tucked away in that horoscope is the revelation that one of the million bullets zinging through this action-adventure will end up in her skull. I realise that sounds harsh, but consider the alternative: putting up with scenes like the one where Usha is on the terrace and her unassuming mother walks through saris hung out to dry on clotheslines and asks her to help her father carry a water can into the house. This is what passes for a middle-class touch, I suppose. But imagining a world where Hansika Motwani has come to embody kitchen-sink realism made me wish for a bullet through the skull.

Luckily, Usha isn’t given too much to do. She goes through the motions of one song and disappears for long stretches. And this is when you realise that the younger Tamil directors are slowly adopting the Hollywood model, which is the only model that works when it comes to gritty action-adventures. (There’s just one other song, an item number that plays in the background as our attention is drawn to more important events.) There’s a best friend-type character, but he isn’t reduced to nanbenda clichés — he’s just one of the emotional components contributing to Siva’s mission. Important characters end up killed. The ending isn’t quite the happily-ever-after you expect. And even when the word sarakku comes up, it isn’t an excuse for a jolly visit to a TASMAC bar. It means what the word really means: goods, consignment. This is, after all, a story about a 1000 kg drug deal. (The drug lords are played, with appropriate amounts of hamming, by Ashutosh Rana and Ashish Vidyarthi.)

Meaghamann could have used a more charismatic hero, but it helps that Siva is a grade-A brooder, not given to effusive displays of emotion. Anupama Kumar compensates somewhat as a cop given to declarations like “The game is getting deadlier.” Indeed, the director actually makes us believe that Siva is in danger. Given the general invincibility of the hero in our cinema, this is no mean accomplishment — a stretch involving enemies closing in on Siva is particularly well done. There’s nothing distinctive here, but sometimes, all we ask for is that the film hums along proficiently. The plotting is pretty tight too, save for bits like the one that involves a random phone-video. More impressively, the director doesn’t seek to pander to family audiences. He understands that a certain amount of brutality is necessary in these films, and he unleashes scenes of corpse-kicking and chainsaw-abetted-limb-hacking and a scene with a maimed eyeball that probably has Buñuel chuckling. It’s time we got rid of the generic dishoom-dishoom.

A version of this review can be read at >

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 1:08:55 AM |

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