First things first. I love a good masala film, a happy place where your heart and mind are not taxed too much, but something that also does not leave you agape at the atrocity on screen. I looked like quite the goldfish during the first 15 minutes of Nelson Dilipkumar’s Vijay-starrer Beast. While I could not help smile at the dig at Hindi imposition, I was konjam zapped too.
Fine, set a film with a RAW agent and all, but do little research too, no? Before deploying someone, that too of all places in PoK, they will ensure you know the local dialect, no? They will ensure you look ‘local’, no? No, sir, no. In our Beast, Vijay’s Veeraraghavan sticks out like the star he is. He looks nothing like everyone else around him (Rishi Kapoor-style sweaters in the land of phirans), and happily speaks in Tamil. The only saving grace? He looks like a million bucks on screen.
Among the current crop of Tamil stars, Vijay is the one who has taken his star image seriously, and ensures his fans get oodles of it in every film. This is a person who has worked on his image and ensures you get to see it too. And, with every passing year, his dancing gets more graceful. So, what do you expect when a young director who made his name rewriting the rules of commercial cinema teams up with Vijay? A star vehicle, yes, but with generous lashings of that unique thing called a crisis comedy that Nelson revels in — think the pre-climax of Doctor and Kolamaavu Kokila in its entirety.
Nelson is one director who can show you a tragedy and make you smile within 30 seconds with a well-timed gag. He peoples his films with characters whose only purpose is to bring out that smile. Earlier, he had to just nudge you. In Beast, half those characters try too hard to elicit even a half-smile! Including VTV Ganesh, who tries so hard. Still Kili and his accomplice charm as does Yogi Babu in the very limited screen time offered. That scene where they hold two doors to protect Vijay from the bullets is utter grace.
The trailer showed you the premise of Beast. The film, sadly, also stops with just that and does not really flesh out any storyline. Some character quirks are well written — Vijay dropping all for a crying child is endearingly done — but for the love of God, I can’t understand how Nelson sold this film to Pooja Hegde. “Listen, you’ve to be there in two songs, look like a deer caught in headlights, feel jealous even in a hostage situation. That’s all.” Like Instagram’s Satshyaa would say, “Easy!”
At its core, the film is a typical Nelson directorial — a hostage crisis in a crowded mall, a terrorist mastermind who has to be released, myriad characters with interesting quirks, lots of humour and a lightness of touch. I appreciate it when a film does not make you feel the feelings, but when it leaves you feeling no care, something is amiss. Suspension of disbelief and all is fine, but little too much to have our spy zip in and out of a not-very-friendly neighbouring country, and tackle firepower in the air and missiles, AND negotiate calmly with friendly RAW folks, get them to talk to the Prime Minister and get work done. How much flower can my ear handle, please.
It’s not that Nelson does not try. He’s taken potshots at everything possible — the focus on elections, Hindi imposition, the works — but without a storyline, everything falls flat. For added measure, there’s one very talkative old lady who gets a bullet in the forehead. Like, why?
For two minutes, I smiled seeing Vijay’s character sit in front of a therapist. The mind immediately felt good at how it was being normalised. The third minute, I was sitting with my hand on my forehead. The therapist is also a guide on ‘figures’ and helps Veera get distracted by taking him to a North Indian wedding with good-looking girls.
There are problematic issues too, that must be called out — not every terrorist has to be Muslim, there are problem areas in our country other than Kashmir, and please, not all terrorists wear khol! Of course, for compensation, there’s the ‘good’ Muslim in the form of RAW official Altaf Hussain (Selvaraghavan actually works well for this role, with his dry humour), but please, we can do better, no? It’s also a little difficult to forgive Nelson for giving the talented Shine Tom Chacko a poor half-note role like this!
Two people whose work stands out are composer Anirudh Ravichander, who is probably the best bet for any star vehicle now, and cinematographer Manoj Paramahamsa. Well done, well done.
I’ve been maintaining for a while that stars should stay away from promising young directors, simply to protect the directors’ prodigious talent. If they collaborate, it should be of benefit to both, not reduce the scope for both. Beast is yet another of those star vehicles where the director will take the blame, and unfairly so.
Vijay is in a purple patch in his career right now. He’s probably our best commercial hero in a long, long time. He oozes style and age sits very well on him. He has good comic sense and can still play the loverboy with his trademark self-deprecation. Please write him better roles. Either get him out of this happy zone or let him be larger than life in it. These half measures don’t help anyone. And, they are unfair to his devoted audience, who lost a night’s sleep to book tickets and another’s to reach the theatre in time for the FDFS.
This Beast 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.