Tamil director CS Amudhan is back with the same question he had asked in 2010 when he made Thamizh Padam: Are the Tamil film industry and fans ready to laugh at themselves (again)?
Going by the teaser, the sequel appears to be in the vein of the original spoof, which poked fun at a host of recurring narrative devices, plot developments, character types and mannerisms of popular actors in Tamil cinema. The tone of the latest parody seems to be inscribed in the title itself – a clear dig at Shankar’s yet-to-be-released 2.0, the sequel to the Rajinikanth starrer Enthiran (2010).
The original movie sent up characters played by Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Suriya and Vikram, among others. The teaser of the sequel has widened the net to include Vijay, Ajith and Madhavan. Even the Baahubali franchise is not spared.
Amudhan also takes potshots at non-film personalities such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader O Pannerselvam. Actors Shiva and Disha Pandey return as the lead pair in the sequel, which describes itself as a “Police athyayam” (police chapter). After all, nearly every Tamil actor has played a police officer at least once in his career.
When it was released in 2010, Thamizh Padam was lauded for its bravery and understandably so, since it has never been easy to get away with poking fun or criticising the Tamil film industry, especially its male stars.
The film begins with a scene from Bharathiraja’s female infanticide-themed drama Karuthamma that is turned on its head. On a rainy night in the village of Cinemapatti, a man learns that his wife has given birth to a son yet again. He coldly instructs his mother (Paravai Muniyamma) to kill his newborn son Shiva because the village headman has issued a diktat that the village will not tolerate any male children. The headman’s rationale: men from the village end up migrating to Chennai in order to become film stars. Within a year, they announce their political ambitions, which angers the party in power, and which in turn cuts off Cinemapatti’s access to basic facilities and funds. A reasonable fear, indeed.
Predictably, the new-born manages to survive and ends up in Chennai. He goes on to do almost everything that his village head had tried to prevent. From entry songs for heroes to climactic showdowns with evil villains in godowns, Amudhan lampoons some of the most common and over-abused devices in Tamil cinema. When a young Shiva tells his grandmother who has brought him to him to Chennai that he cannot wait to grow up and become a hero, she asks him to sit on a cycle parked near their hut and start pedalling. The wheel turns, time passes and Shiva (played by Shiva) is an adult in the next scene.
The screenplay of Thamizh Padam is a string of gags directed at specific scenes from a number of hit films. The list is long and is a thick-skinned fan’s paradise because it includes such successful films as Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathi (1991), Suresh Krishna’s Baasha (1995), N Linguswamy’s Run (2002), Dharani’s Dhool (2003) and AR Murugadoss’s Ghajini (2005).
Amudhan spares nobody and nothing, whether it is the reasons scriptwriters invent for making heroines fall in love with the heroes or the plot twists that ensure that the hero always arrives in the nick of time to save the day.
Even the songs are not spared. The track Oh Maha Zeeya, for instance, is a romantic song full of gibberish lyrics – nakumuku naaka, shakalaka oho randaka – and ridicules every generic love song filmed against scenic backdrops.
A lot of Amudhan’s humour is of the in-your-face kind, but it lovingly calls attention to the existing ridiculousness in our cinema. Among the best scenes is the parody of Shankar’s Anniyan (2005), in which Siva unsuccessfully tries to convince a herd of buffaloes to attack the villain and kill him. He even shows them a video of the scene from Anniyan on his laptop. The villain does die, eventually, but of a heart attack induced by excessive laughter after watching Siva and the buffaloes. “Bad guys can be killed this way too,” Siva declares.