In these times of uncertain parentage, and bolt-out-of-the-blue paternity suits, a card that appears right before Pa Paandi (Dhanush’s directorial debut) begins, announces a curious dedication: to the writer’s mother and father. I don’t give the tribute much thought, this is a movie about finding love in the 60s, after all. The trailer had lovely shots of Rajkiran and Revathy in shy smiles and sweet companionship, and several of Rajkiran in heavy biker jackets. Surely, this is a tale about all of that?
But it is also about the seemingly-uncaring, worldly, expensive car owning, suit-wearing (what’s with Dhanush and people in suits, anyway?) callous adult-children who have little to less time to spend with their parents. When Power Paandi (Rajkiran who is particularly at home playing doting grandfather) switches on the TV, his son (Prasanna) and daughter-in-law storm out of their room to berate him. When Power Paandi files a complaint with the police against drug-dealers in the area, the son talks down to him. Why do you care, he snaps. He’s unfeeling, this son – he’s super-rich and works in an IT park, so he must be. Soon, a scene of a sad Rajkiran being consoled by his grandchildren is set to an equally melancholic score.
This plays in an infinite loop.
Son insults father -> father looks downcast -> gloomy music
Dhanush, it would seem, is just setting context for what is to follow. Obviously, it takes an unhappy elder to seek companionship outside. But first,
Uncaring children -> unhappy elder
It is that kind of a tale. Dhanush plays to the gallery, and as a result, Rajkiran suffers heavily from the Indian Parent Syndrome, reinforcing archaic, misplaced sentiments of parenthood. During an instance, Paandi says – I wanted to have more children, because even if one doesn’t care for me, the other would. But alas, he just has one son. An unfeeling, disrespectful son who is forever typing away on his computer, moustache bristling at everything his father does. It’s almost funny, but it isn’t.
Amidst all this though, there is laugh-out-loud humour; and Dhanush gently pulls the strings when it gets too teary. When Paandi finally traces Thendral – his “first love” whom he had lost contact with – he knocks on her door in the middle of the night. Thendral shushes him; her granddaughter is sleeping inside. They finally meet in the terrace – in stealth. Later, he’s seen texting her in bed, his phone glowing under the blanket.
Pa Paandi is very ’90s in structure. Rajkiran gets a superhero introduction, vaguely reminiscent of a Rajini movie. The film opens to a bevy of people on a made-to-seem-routine-but-deliberately-crowded-for-shot street. They make random small-talk to the camera.
Camera -> Power Paandi
Random person 1: Paandi, come have tea with us!
Paandi voice-over: Not until I finish jogging. Then, arugampul juice!
Random person 1, 2, 3 (in admiration): Ohhhhh
<continues to run>
Good-natured Paati selling idlis: Paandi, have some idlis!
Paandi voice-over: Not now, Paati
Random policeman: Paandi, you are awesome – you are the reason we still hold our jobs!
Paandi: (modest smile) (now on camera)
Paandi gets home, picks up juice, switches on television…
What’s otherwise amazing about Pa Paandi is that Dhanush draws from a setting quite familiar to him. Power Paandi is a retired stunt director, hence that lovely name. He idles at home, befriends the geeky iPad-owning youth next door, berates him for his obsession with the gadget, and generally gets on everyone’s nerves except his grand-children’s. The role is something Rajkiran had perfected over the years, sans the humour, of course. Something that began circa:
Dhanush, the younger Power Paandi of the flashback sequences, has a personality of his own. He is very …Dhanush, all brash, massy appeal while the older Power Paandi is very Rajkiran, subdued, victimized, the doting grandfather. Dhanush just cannot be super-imposed on Rajkiran, much as Madonna Sebastian cannot pass for a younger Revathi.
Sepia + splashes of red + Madonna Sebastian in plaits + smattering of English ≠ Young Revathi
Veshti + Dhanush and his distinct swagger + punches + indistinct rural dialect ≠ Young Rajkiran
The flashback romance sequence in Paa Paandi is also a thing of the past. Rajini and Sundar C clearly wield enormous influence over the debutant director as he conjures a snake to propel Thendral into the younger Paandi’s arms.
Thankfully though, no trace of Thalaimurai remains in the older couple.
The Pa Paandi 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.