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Second Rate


Ponniyin Selvan

Ponniyin Selvan is filmmaker Radhamohan's second movie, coming on the heels of his successful debut venture Azhagiye Theeye. The movie stars Ravi Krishna – the no can emote son of the biggest producer in Tamil, with Gopika, PrakashRaj and Revathy playing supporting roles.

Radhamohan has an affinity for feel-good tales about young men from middle class backgrounds – Azhagiya Theeye was an oddball romance between an aspiring actor and a girl who wants to shake off her arranged marriage. It was simple and honest, funny and touching – the kind of substance over style movie that Bollywood will never make. The movie wasn't flawless: it emphasised words over visuals, an unfortunate throwback to the Balachander days and the old fashioned direction did nothing to dispel the stage drama feel that parts of the movie had. But, a neat script and some good performances glossed over the shortcomings, and the movie was eminently watchable.

Ponniyin Selvan though, has no such luck. Whatever chances the movie had of success, are ruined by insipid performances.

It's the story of a disfigured young man living with his widowed mom. He has learnt to live with his disfigurement and the accompanying disadvantages, and seems fairly content with life until someone suggests to him that maybe he should try fixing his face surgically. Turns out that the surgery costs a fortune. End happiness, begin obsession. He works hard to make money, forgetting the simple joys of life in the process. It's not a bad premise at all, and with better performances and less mush, the movie could have worked.

Ravi Krishna sports the same blank expression throughout the movie, and his monotonal, droning dialogue delivery makes him unbearable. Prakash Raj tries his darndest to act enough for everyone else in the movie, while Revathy, surprisingly, delivers a controlled, effective performance as Ravi Krishna's mom. Gopika is competent as the goodie -goodie girl that doesn't care much for looks, and there is another girl that doesn't care much for the way the hero looks.

The other big drawback is an overdose of pithy one liners in the dialogues. The occasional smart repartee livens up things, but to have every exchange between every character end in some type of witticism is disconcerting. (Also the fact that some of the lines are quite inane.. “It's ok to live in a complex, but don't let a complex live in you”). Radhamohan doesn't seem to get the “cinema is a visual medium” thing still – there are a few people in the movie that seem to exist to just sit on benches and exchange “There was a Sardar once.. ” type of jokes.

Throughout the movie, the struggle between the director that prefers realism and the director that is obliged to make a star out of his producer's son is evident. There are pointless dances (Ravikrishna can add leaden footed just below wooden faced on his resume), and given the lack of suitable situations for the hero to beat up a few people, there is a ridiculous dream stunt sequence. Surely, that's a first.

And so, one more filmmaker with potential promises to deceive.