Atlee makes a propaganda machine

Watching Mersal is somewhat surreal: everything in this movie is blown to proportions so large you can see neither beginning nor end, every dialogue is just a line away from finding a place in the propaganda booklet of some political party, every version of the hero is more of the same.

Vijay is a villager with a bleeding heart, a magician who kills corrupt doctors, and a doctor who is the Robin Hood of medicine. The latter two are sons of the former.

Villager Vijay’s partner is Nithya Menen, who wants to give birth to more children than her mother. She aspires to twenty, this is later amended to twenty two, one child for each state in India at the time. Other character traits are overshadowed by this desire for children, which finds a mention in at least three instances during her short time on screen. She is also a supportive wife, but you knew that. What you may not have known is that she is a Punjabi, though this could have been inserted in the screenplay to show Villager Vijay defeating Punjabi men at wrestling in their homeland.

Magician Vijay takes it up with Kajal Aggarwal, who is a doctor training to be a personal assistant. She books flight tickets for her doctor boss and needs to bailed out of a situation by Vijay. Later, she is available for a song and dance sequence that liberally borrows words from a language commonly known as Gibberish.

Doctor Vijay charges only five rupees for his services, and is affectionately called Five Rupees Doctor by the downtrodden people he wants to uplift. Samantha interviews him for her television show, and their meet-cute involves a case of mistaken identity that we have seen in approximately hundred other movies. She treats him flippantly and asks him to introduce her to this famous doctor, only to find out he is the doctor himself. They take a selfie and get a song together.

The movie wants to educate us about evil mercenary doctors, who are so concerned with making money that they have forgotten their Hippocratic oath. This evil force is embodied by SJ Suryah, who performs gruesome acts like forcing a caesarean delivery on Nithya Menen, when the normal way would have worked, thereby killing her and endangering the life of her child. Another evil doctor helps him with these schemes, since he is too weak to stand up for the cause of ethics. More callous behaviour on display: a young girl, daughter of an autorickshaw driver, dies after blunt force trauma to the head, because too much time was wasted by the middle men and doctors whose only aim is to get richer.

The movie also wants to educate us about being a proud Tamilan, and it achieves this by having Vijay waltz into the airport in Paris wearing a veshti. He is suspected of being a terrorist and pulled aside for questioning. A white woman almost chokes to death right at this moment, and Vijay immediately runs to her rescue. He saves her and proves to everyone what a True Tamil Man looks like. He also sings a song with a line that seems to suggest a person jogging along Marina Beach is entitled to more…arrogance (gethu/thimiru) than someone going for a walk in Boat Club. One might argue that the same person would be doing both those activities. Most of the movie appears to be a desperate attempt to declare that it has its heart in the right place: rooting for the local, the innocent poor, the naive villagers, and staying true to one’s Tamil origins wherever in the world one might be.

Everyone in this movie’s universe has been instructed to scream, react in over the top ways so the camera captures their reactions, and play second fiddle to the three Vijays. Mersal takes itself so seriously, it seems to think it’s the cinema industry’s answer to all the world’s problems. The frequent self referencing doesn’t make it any more palatable either; this is just the director’s third film and it seems like each one was more bloated than the last.

All the Moscato that was consumed during the viewing of this movie didn’t help.


7 thoughts on “Atlee makes a propaganda machine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s