Director: Karthik Venugopalan
Cast: Shirin Kanchawala, RJ Rio Raj and RJ Vigneshkanth
The truly funny moment in Karthik Venugopalan’s debut film Nenjamundu Nermaiyundu Odu Raja is when film lead Rio Raj as ‘Prank Star’ Shiva channels YouTube film reviewer ‘Blue Shirt’ Maran and reviews the film on screen. He refers to the film’s title and asks if this is okay, if a line from a song can become a film title.
This, self referential in-jokes, YouTube stars, political commentary and basic parodies make about two-thirds of NNOR. The rest is a bit of do-good climax that is the film’s message. Don’t just be a bystander.
Nenjamundu Nermaiyundu Odu Raja is written and directed by Karthik Venugopalan, and produced by Sivakarthikeyan’s SK Productions. The film stars Shirin Kanchawala, RJ Rio Raj and RJ Vigneshkath, with Mayilsamy, Chuttu Aravind, Nanjil Sampath, Radha Ravi and a villain played by Vivek Prasanna who channels Sathyaraj at his neurotic evil best. NNOR was shot by UK Senthil Kumar, and edited by Fenny Oliver and Tamil Arasan. It features music by Shabir.
Ram (Aravind) is employed at a pharmacy and makes a little money, which he gives to his brothers Shiva (Rio Raj) and Vicky (Vigneshkath). They promptly waste it in their pursuit of stardom: Internet stardom. Never mind Ram has no money to pay rent or the bills. The only person who dares question them is the landlord of the house Ram lives in: Mayilsamy.
Shiva and Vicky run a YouTube channel, and don’t want to let constrained circumstances or that useless thing called responsibility come in the way of their rise to the top. And so, they pull various pranks on unsuspecting people and catch it all on camera.
In one such episode, they land upon a rich man – Radha Ravi as “Jippakaran”, and Vicky pretends to hold him hostage. Even as Shiva holds a random woman – Shirin Kanchawala as Nisha – also hostage. However, Jippakaran has spotted the “hidden” camera and is impressed by the two. Nisha not so much. Till exactly half a scene later when Nisha who is a TV reporter wants to do a show about a young man who feeds the poor and needy on the streets. This young man is Ram, and Nisha, in the process of shooting the video, falls in love with Shiva.
I guess these things happen.
Anyway. Jippakaran has a proposition for Shiva and Vicky. Complete three tasks he sets for them and he will give them more money than they can even count. But, before that, let’s just squeeze in a pretend murder and a homophobic “comedy” scene because, why not?
Why why why. All these people involved – writer, director, producer, the stars – are all millennials. Aren’t millennials, who grew up with the Internet telling them what is good and bad and how to be woke, supposed to be a bit more… sensitive? At least enough to fake it?
But no, let’s just put in a scene where a man is apparently attracted to another man while one of them is in a shower and they’re both half naked. And, let’s play up all the tropes of how a supposedly gay man – an effeminate gay man – behaves.
Anyway. The three tasks Jippakaran has for them: One – be the breaking news on all TV channels, the biggest news item in the country. Two – get a man who is visibly mentally ill elected as a MLA. And three – prevent a murder. Victim and perpetrator both unknown.
Only when all three tasks are completed will Jippakaran hand over the money. But, of course, he won’t reveal all three tasks immediately because then the film would be even shorter than its two-hour run time. Behind all this is a tragic backstory, of course, and a set up to the film’s message.
Along the way, Shiva and Vicky bust an MP’s holier-than-thou act and expose a crime, meet a very self aware politician (Nanjil Sampath sort of taking over from Karu Pazhaniappan in Natpe Thunai), sing a couple of songs, have a crisis of love, discover the true meaning of life and love, discover that the brother who stood by them all through has become destitute… Thus spurred on, they arrive at the scene of the purported crime and prevent it.
And here, we have the film’s one action sequence, a lot of things come back in a circle and an evil villain learns his lesson.
Perhaps jerky cuts and unconnected montages work for YouTube comic videos. The Internet, after all, is designed for jumps. But, on screen, this is really annoying. Especially, in the first third of the film where we only see the lead characters jumping from half-hearted comic set-ups and a song and dance to a “sentimental scene” and supposed romance. These scenes feel like YouTube playlists shuffling quickly till we find the one video we want to see. Surely the director and editors could have held on to some of these scenes a bit longer, if only for us to know what’s happening.
At the end, however, NNOR allows you to come out of the theatre feeling like you had a half-decent time. And, manages to say something important. Don’t just witness – participate, prevent. That may not be a bad message for a YouTube video to say.
The Nenjamundu Nermaiyundu Odu Raja review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.