Director: Shakti Soundar Rajan
Cast: Arya, Sayyeshaa, Magizh Thirumeni, Masoom Shankar, Yogi Babu, Sakshi Agarwal
The funniest gag in Shakti Soundar Rajan‘s Teddy is something of an unironic accomplishment. Its log line is based on Seth Macfarlane’s Ted, which had a talking teddy bear as Mark Wahlberg’s buddy, its disposition somewhat at odds with its adult character.
In Teddy, the writer-director does away with the heroine’s character and transfers it to the talking teddy bear. This is not only funny but also revitalises the Tamil cinema trend of having a cutesy, saccharine woman lead who has earned the tag of loosu ponnu, present in the film solely as the romantic interest with no connect to the larger plot or the male lead’s main purpose.
In Teddy, Shri (Sayyeshaa) is kidnapped in a hospital and a bunch of doctors who speak in WhatsApp forward language get her into medically-induced coma when her soul is transferred into a teddy bear. The teddy finds its (her?) way to our hero Shiva, (Arya, whose muscles we can see but they don’t twitch even a little?), who is given a superpower. Scratch that, several superpowers. Apparently he has photographic memory and can finish whole degrees in months and is obsessive about cleanliness and time. He knows the stock market in and out, claims to be a psychiatrist without the degrees and certificates, dives for fun and trained in martial arts, rifle shooting and can even work the crossbow. He dresses in plain colours with matching handkerchiefs. The word that came to my mind is “incel” but let’s not go there.
The superhero is established as the saviour and the teddy looks cute, acts cute and speaks cute. It’s the perfect solution to every male Tamil cinema director sitting with a script and thinking long and hard about the romantic interest and how to write her into the film. Shakti strikes gold. He removes her completely, uses her as plot device and transfers her soul into the teddy bear, someone the superhero can both make use of and save in the end. Genius! The woman actor now gets the same screen time as before but there is something unique about the “idea” of her. She’s actually instrumental to the whole plot. But that’s as interesting (or uninteresting, discouraging even, depending on how you want to look at it) as Teddy gets.
The rest of the film overuses Shiva’s superpowers without any of the thrill associated with a superhero film. Shiva reads Bharathiyar, Hitler, Ayn Rand and Paulo Coelho. He seems to have taught some to Shri, the teddy quotes both Bharathiyar and Vadivelu.
Everything in Teddy takes the easy route, like instead of a script, the filmmaker wanted to create a decent meme. There are jokes about Arya and Sayyeshaa – who are married to each other in real life and a comment on Arya’s stint in Enga Veetu Mapillai, the Tamil version of The Bachelor. I wondered if Shakti exchanged any notes with director Magizh Thirumeni – making his acting debut here – who knows a thing or two about crafting an effective thriller. A fight and parkour scene could have been staged far better and though things happen in second half, nothing unpredictable crops up.
At one point, Shiva talks about “out of body experience”. I hope Shakti didn’t have any such misconceptions about this film.
Teddy had an OTT release on Hotstar but if these were normal times, an out of theatre experience could have been a real possibility.
The Teddy review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.