A crowded old van sits in a dimly lit garage. Pasupathy is in it. His henchmen are in it. He is the villain, but he’s also the comedy-piece; they are clowns. He walks around to the back of the car with a glass of tea. The trunk opens to reveal a battered man, barely able to speak, blood all over him.
Pasupathy leans into him as he asks a question. He pulls back, still talking to the man and his clowns, face contorted with pained anger. And then, almost unnoticed, he pulls a newspaper and wipes the man’s blood off his neck.
Writer-director Vijay Milton has an eye for the absurd. Occasionally.
10 Enradhukulla is masala. It’s proudly formulaic, and Vikram, with three top-drawer hits from the genre – Dhill, Dhool and Saami – is the perfect lead. It is unpretentious, happily so; it wants to entertain and not much else.
It does entertain. Occasionally.
But Vijay Milton is no Dharani. His last movie was Goli Soda, and he hasn’t made the transition to the no-holds barred mayhem of entertainers. In Dhool for example, there was an item song in a dhaba. Just because. Here there’s an item song in a dhaba, which plays like a long, confusing game of strip poker with Charmi and guns and arrows and men without shirts. And no, the game was not long enough. It never is.
The best masalas have a clear purpose. Water for the village. Rescuing a girl from a guy who screams ‘Chellam’ all the time. In 10 Enradhukulle, there’s a neat little twist at the end, but it comes too late.
Pasupathy’s bumbling villany and Rahul Dev’s caricature as someone who kills people for kicks don’t help us relate; we cheer for Vikram, but we aren’t sure.
Pasupathy’s perennially bemused expression is the perfect metaphor for 10 Enradhukulle.
That Tamil writers struggle to create strong women characters is be no surprise. The Tamil movie landscape is full of cartoonish, bubbly women who are utterly unlike anything you would find in the world. Mani Ratnam uses this species in all his movies, and now Milton follows suit with his Shakeela.
The difference is that Vijay Milton uses the same mould to make his leading man as well. He takes studied nonchalance and turns it into silliness; his leading man makes up names for himself (James Bond, Muruga Doss, Sunil Gavaskar, even Virat Kohli). As a running gag, it’s funny. It also makes it hard to take him seriously.
That he created these on screen characters with two very good performers makes it even worse. Vikram enjoys himself in a role which demands nothing from him, while Samantha – articulate and smart off screen – tries her best to look convincing as a loony 6-year old who cannot drive.
In a scene towards the end, Samantha has her back to Vikram as she tells him about someone she lost in her life; “They died,” she says, and just as we start to feel some pity, she puts her tongue out. In case we mistake her for someone capable of serious emotion.
Like a distance runner asked to sprint, D Imman, who has a reputation for melodic numbers, struggles with the faster songs. The score is pedestrian (as is the background music by Anoop Seelin); and the lyrics are just plain awful. Like Snehan in Saami, Madhan Karky can’t be bothered to use words that fit the tune. The songs end up sounding like (engineered) prose read out by qualified singers.
‘Naan Paanja Bulletu’
Vijay Milton also calls upon a little of his inner Shankar, whose large budgets and rich canvases mask a love for vulgar humour. Vikram searches for his key in Samantha’s cardigan, and suddenly a bus horn sounds in the background. Not so veiled lines follow, about what he felt.
Clean family entertainer. Occasionally.
Pasupathy rehashes his Annachi from Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai Balakumara yet again. The rest of the cast display various degrees of villainy. Meanwhile, Vikram and Samantha look like a million bucks while gamely working their way (in a souped up car) through villain after villain.
Only to meet the villadhi villain. Who has the best line in the movie: yelling “Poda Potte” at poor Rahul Dev.
In a fun little exchange later on in the movie, Samantha asks Vikram if he finishes everything by the count of ten. He says yes, then stutters. As we smile, she grins knowingly.
It’s what the movie could have been.
The 10 Enradhukulla Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.