The trailer of 144 promised a quirky, fun and intriguing rendition of ‘Soodhu Kavvum meets Mundasuppatti‘, both CV Kumar productions. But the actual film evokes a bizarre feeling. Like the first few seconds of waking up from a bad dream during an afternoon nap, and wondering, “Where am I? What did I just see? What year is it?”
For a long time, two villages with similar names (Erimalaikundu and Poomalaikundu) have been warring over the rights to a stream that runs between them. Section 144 is imposed over the villages every year at festival time, to prevent rioting between the villagers. Dhesu (Mirchi Shiva) is a small time thief from Erimalaikundu, and Madhan (Ashok Selvan) is a driver, loyal to Rayappan, the local businessman. Dhesu plans a heist that eventually envelops Madhan, Rayappan, a rival don known as ‘Feelings’ Ravi, and the mute artiste Ravi Varman. 144 tells the tale of this heist.
There’s a fine line between quirky and trying too hard. Let’s examine, for a moment, Soodhu Kavvu and Mundasupatti, the movies 144 claims to be a combination of. Soodhu Kavvum‘s protagonist (Das) had an imaginary girlfriend. She may not have been real, but she had a purpose. She advised him. He even mourned when she ‘died’. It was quirky and amusing, and it was relevant. Next Ramadoss. He played Munishakanth in Mundasupatti, a struggling actor who lacked talent. Masking his failures with a fake accent, Munishakanth would make excuses about how he thought Tamil cinema was beneath his talent. It was funny, and enriched the plot. In 144, he plays a mute artist. Why is his character mute? What purpose does his inability to talk serve? We don’t know. He makes sounds that are supposed to be funny, but are, in fact, irritating.
Then there’s the inexplicable choice of setting. Why is 144 set in an imaginary village in Madurai? The only reason seems to be, because the director wants to subject the audience to a bad version of Madurai slang. Namely, Chennai Tamil with the syllable prolonged at the end.
Another supposedly quirky character in the film is the don, known as ‘Feelings’ Ravi. He loves to torture people he doesn’t like. He even has a book on torture techniques. To make someone confess the truth, he sticks her fingers together with glue. Her reaction seems to suggest that she’s being chainsawed. A more plausible technique might have been to just make her watch this film.
Mirchi Shiva continues his Tamil Padam and Masala Padam routines with a poker face. One of his dialogues is temporarily funny: “Please my understand, try to Kalyani, the situation.” After that we’re back to a movie watching experience best forgotten. The characters and scenes are pointless, and the ramble-shamble stunts do nothing for 144.
Fun fact: just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be any more worthless scenes to cobble together into this film, I find out that CV Kumar said the film’s rough cut version was almost four and a half hours long. Fact beats fiction, every time.
The 144 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 any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.