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Devi(L) Review: Ghosts Just Want To Have Fun

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Director Vijay’s Devi(L) is about a newly-wed shepherdess from Tamil Nadu who follows her husband to Mumbai city. They move into an apartment where, years ago, a starlet named Ruby had killed herself. Under the influence of the spirit of the dead actress, the shepherdess sheds her naive and rustic self (and saree) and embraces a new glamorous persona. As she transforms into a movie star determined to conquer the industry, the husband is left shocked and chagrined.

Because all he wants is a wife who will cook and take care of him.

For the most part, the film is entertaining because for once, instead of Kollywood’s usual revenge-obsessed ghost, here’s a spirit who just wants to have some fun. She holds her own against the men around her and when a crisis hits, she takes the lead.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t last.

*****

Devi’s (Tamannah) wedding with the rich and urbane Krishna (Prabhu Deva) takes place in a haste, thanks to the latter’s ailing grandmother. He wanted an English-speaking, sophisticated and urban girlfriend in short skirts, and now he’s embarrassed by Devi’s tanned skin and country ways. You’d think that when she turns into a diva under the ghost’s influence, Krishna would be happy.

But, in her new avatar, Krishna has no control over Devi. And that terrifies him. Worse, a superstar falls in love with Ruby/Devi.

Devi(L) inadvertently and momentarily makes this ‘typical Indian male’ figure into a laughingstock.

Soon after Krishna tells the film’s costume designer that Ruby/Devi wouldn’t wear skimpy clothes, you see her rocking one with élan. The same man who had been drooling over women in modern clothes, realises that deep down, he just wants a saree-clad wife to care for him and his house.

“This fame and glamour is not what I want from my wife,” he tells the spirit. And the film is on his side. Soon enough, the woman returns to her saree-clad identity.

*****

In all this, Devi is never told that a ghost is possessing her. Krishna never asks her what she wants for herself, whether she wants to be famous and glamorous. After all, given her enthusiasm when she spots superstar Rajesh Khanna (Sonu Sood) outside her house one day, she might even have said yes.

And that would blur the line between Devi and Devil.

And Devi(L) can offer its heroine only two options — a homely ‘Devi’ or a career-oriented ‘Devil’.

*****

For comedy, we have awkward playboy antics that involve stalking (suitably urban) girls and commenting on their looks. In Krishna’s introduction scene, he is approaching a new colleague with his biodata. An application for the post of boyfriend, he says. One scene later, he’s dancing on the street to impress a woman (Amy Jackson) he just saw at a café.

RJ Balaji plays a clown with a screechy voice. His jokes range from wailing loudly at the bed of a dying woman he has never met before, to uttering gibberish in Hindi and English — “I want north Indian pasta, Jalapeno jappi, Alapeno appi.” Looks like after Santhanam and Soori, it’s now Balaji’s turn to beat humour to death.

*****

The highlight of Devi(L) is how effectively its technical team creates the mood. Unlike most of Kollywood’s horror films, there are no tacky sets and costumes. Tamanna isn’t asked to make scary faces. Horrifying moments are predictable, yet restrained enough to be effective. In one compelling scene, the ghost plays with Krishna’s sense of time and space, and causes him to panic. In another scene, he watches as Devi sleepwalks. The temptation is right there to do a jump scare, but the film admirably refrains.

*****

The best antidote to the film’s numerous flaws is the lead man Prabhu Deva. He dances like it’s the ‘90s (there’s even a reference to Chikbuk Raile and Gauthami). He shows that he still has the moves and charm that made him a nation-wide sensation (with songs like Mukkala and Oorvasi). And Tamanna ably complements him.

What doesn’t work though, are eminently forgettable songs like ‘Gokka Mokka’, in which Devi reveals her new self to everybody. The song has lousy lyrics like: “Un Goka Makka Maaka, Aiyo Aiyo Dandanaka, Sridevike Akka.” It’s a fine opportunity lost.

And that holds true for Devi(L) as well.

*****

The Devi(L) 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.

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