Welcome to poor decision #2. The first one was the decision to sit through Anbanavan Asaradhavan Adangadhavan. And now, to write about it. You could say I was warned, I did watch the trailer. But I mistakenly believed I could have some amount of fun watching it. Terrible movies have long been a wonderful source of entertainment on many lazy afternoons, but this movie crosses that thin line and goes to a territory that is so perplexing, so awful, it might have just stunned me into silence. For a while.
I enjoyed the director’s first movie, Trisha Illana Nayanthara. It was unexpectedly funny, I learnt a new phrase, there were some kooky characters like the guy who goes around throwing bricks at people (Sengal Psycho), and the women were not reduced to pin-ups. The last point was a surprise, especially for a movie that was unapologetic about its target audience (hormonal boys and men). The women in TIN knew what they wanted, they weren’t coy about sex, and it seemed like the hero was the one holding on to archaic notions of virginity and women. With AAA though, director Adhik Ravichandran lets us know the male gaze isn’t going anywhere, and that he has been indoctrinated by Tamil cinema.
The movie starts off with Secret Agent Ruby (Kasthuri) barking at her minions. She is on a mission to track some dangerous criminals. One of them could be STR. She isn’t spotted again in the movie. One hopes the sequel will clear things up.
STR is Madurai Michael, the good bad guy, whom the people love for reasons unknown to us. They love him so much that in his introduction scene, they form a human pyramid against the walls of the prison so that he climb on them and escape. It does not strike them to escape along with him. Madurai/Michael (he goes by either name) then sings a song to us about his stardom and his fans (?) and Mass Activities that make him a Tamil Hero.
The First Heroine
Throughout the first half, we see him pursue Selvi (Shriya Saran), who is a village girl with a new dubbing voice and lip sync errors that refuse to die. Watch out for her speaking in village slang such as Indhaaru1, and plaiting her hair with flowers – but those perfect brown streaks can’t be hidden. It looks like Selvi is unable to tolerate him, much like us, but after the screenplay moves along a little bit, she ends up marrying him at the registrar’s office. By this I mean he marries her while she is reduced to observer at her own sudden wedding. Later we understand that she loves him more than we know, because she doesn’t need more than a second to forgive him when he stabs her father. “It was dark, you did it unknowingly, he is still alive, don’t worry.” As they make plans to run away to Dubai, he is caught and jailed. [Refer to previous paragraph for notes on his escape.] Once outside, he discovers Selvi is about to be married off to Random Dude. Madurai/Michael is distraught, but imparts some wisdom: True love is not about attaining the girl, but about making her happy. He will soon contradict this philosophy, I shall elaborate.
The Second Heroine
The second half sees Madurai/Michael in Dubai. He is much older now, so he calls himself Ashwin Thatha2. One look at Ramya (Tamannaah), he is filled with love and/or lust – truly hard to say which. He sings a song that translates to:
Grandpa loves you/ Do you love me/ But I won’t ask you
Ramya is a Type A Bubbly Girl with maniacal smiles and a wardrobe that hugs her curves. She wears miniskirts and tight t-shirts as she prances around being cute. (One t-shirt reads Eye Contact.) She gets to show off her dancing skills in one song, but we are too distracted by the lyrics to pay attention to her: “It’s enough if you love me tonight.” The movie takes great efforts to convince us that Ramya is in love with Ashwin Thatha – she paints a picture of him, she goes on dates with him, she tells people that he is her boyfriend along with defiant statements such as Age doesn’t matter/Yeah this Grandpa is my boyfriend so what. This would be an interesting point to think about, if only the movie didn’t make Ashwin Thatha a lecherous old man, the kind of pervert young women try to avoid. This love story is not Cheeni Kum.
However, because of STR’s bad luck with women and love in real life, he learns Ramya has been tricking him all along. She is in love with a man named Siva, who happens to be two years younger than her (again, age doesn’t matter). Grandpa is shocked, but quickly recovers. His experience informs him that Women are like this only. He sings a sad song to emphasize this point – an interlude from Loosu Penne, which was everywhere about ten years ago. Grandpa then vows to extract revenge, his wise dialogue about keeping the girl happy has apparently evaporated in Dubai’s heat. He kidnaps Siva and we are left with the information that a sequel will soon be upon us: Ashwin Thatha vs. Thikku Siva [Stammerer Siva].
Leading men in Tamil cinema must incorporate references to their past movies and personal lives. STR takes this mandate seriously. After all, he was Little Super Star once, and now he is a star without the a. His ideology has rubbed off on the director too, who does not mind references to his earlier (and only other) movie. Sengal Psycho is in prison though, sadly.
Kovai Sarala is in there too, as someone in love with Ashwin Thatha. She is the Nayanthara to Ashwin Thatha’s STR.
On one of Ramya’s dates with Grandpa, a young man threatens to jump off the terrace following a conversation with his girlfriend.
Boy: Why won’t you have sex with me before we get married? You did it with your Ex!
Girl: I felt like doing it with him, I don’t feel like doing it with you.
[Don’t jump to conclusions yet.]
Boy: Okay I’m going to kill myself.
Ashwin Thatha/STR to Boy (on terrace): If you tell women what to do, they will do the exact opposite. Tell them not to drink, they will drink. Tell them not to dress this way, they will dress that way. Tell them not to go out with boys, they will go out with boys.
Ashwin Thatha/STR then gives Boy tips on how to get women to do what men want them to do, while allowing them to think this is what they want to do all along. Beginner lessons on obedience for the ideal relationship, because STR is practically a Love Guru now, after his failed romances.
1Indhaaru: Inga paaru, Look here
2Ashwin Thatha: Ashwin Grandpa