Nani in 'Tuck Jagadish', streaming on Amazon Prime Video. (Image: Screen grab)
A long time ago, fans like me realised that we only miss out on storytelling if we love one star and hate the other, so I watch natural star Nani with as much love as Makkal Selvam Vijay Sethupathi. It’s a win-win to watch two totally different stories that share the same values and yes, coolers.
Coolers, or sunglasses, are a phenomenon in some movies made South of the Vidhyas, I suppose. It is said that MGR did not want the public to see his tears when he saw the suffering of his people, and so he wore dark glasses even at night. Rajini showed up and wore sunglasses with such awesomeness, we started calling them coolers. Nani beating up bad guys in Tuck Jagadish and Vijay Sethupathi offering his brand of cool made me keep my sunglasses handy. After all, so much star power in one weekend!
Amazon Prime Video released Tuck Jagadish way before the usual midnight release, and fans watched the story unfold.
Jagadish is a beloved younger and more educated son of a landowning patriarch Adishesh Naidu (Nasser), who has two sons from a wife who is now no more and two daughters and a speech-impaired son from his current wife.
The daughters are married but they stay with their father. The elder of the two sons is Bose Babu (played by Jagapathi Babu who is so good at playing these quasi-villainous roles), and the youngest Jagadish is played by Nani who does a great job.
Jagadish is loyal to his family to a fault, and does not hesitate in dishing out punches and kicks to the baddies who come at him with sickles and large knives.
The villain is the son of another patriarch killed by an angry farmer. Daniel Balaji’s Virendra has awesome hair, but he is so cruel and merciless that everyone in the village better be afraid of doing anything against him. His demented brother is played by Thiruveer and he makes for a violent villain.
The action scenes in the film are wonderful (especially the sequence in the paddy field), and you must remember to lower the volume of the slashes and punches and screams. You want the bad guys to be punished, but you have to remember to be kind to your ears.
This story is not new. Many films - Tamil and Telugu - have a rural farming tale where the family members are good to the parents only as long as they have not apportioned property to them. And enmity between two families is as repetitive as Sooryavansham. How the greed for lands will pull families apart. It’s just that Jagadish has to prove himself as a member of the family and bring them together when they’re falling apart. And when the little girl asks, ‘Are you my family?’ he wears his sunglasses and answers, ‘I’m not sure.’
That brings me to the second (timewise) big release of the week: Tughlaq Durbar on Netflix. Starring Makkal Selvam Vijay Sethupathi. He too is not sure which one of him is the good and which is the bad. And yes, he too wears coolers.
The story is set in a poor part of Chennai. The lad Singham and his sister Manimegalai (played by Manjima Mohan) grow up as orphans but the people in the hood become their family. Singham, played by Vijay Sethupathi, blindly idolises a political leader Rayappan (the superbly talented writer, actor, director Parthiban) who has never lost an election even though he has not worked for the people.
The film is funny in parts but does not rise to the level of Jim Carrey's Liar Liar where the father cannot tell a lie because his child makes a birthday wish for his dad to speak the truth, if only for a day. There are many other movies where a split personality awakens because of an injury to the head, or because someone wishes that the person changes… In this case, his sister wishes he could be a true brother to her…
Vijay Sethupathi’s comic timing is good, and it’s funny to see him quickly recover from being the bad guy to doing the right thing and vice versa. The situational comedy is funny, but that’s the only comedic vehicle. This needed more than the bizarre eye winking. I was rather alarmed at the extreme close-up of his bushy eyebrows above his eyes the first time his personality changes. Shadow splitting is a great narrative device. Well done!
Rayappan does not know what to believe because the bad guy Singham has accepted a bribe, but the good guy Singham has hidden it. It does get funny, but you want to fast forward the same ‘what has the good guy done now!’ Singham’s childhood friend Vasu (played wonderfully by Karunakaran) got me laughing out loud. His genuine surprise at the kidnapping and rescue sequence, and his efforts to really get his friend on track to being the good guy are very well written.
The action sequence in the rainy muddy playground here is just as good as the paddy field sequence in Tuck Jagadish. There are no super creepy villains in Tughlaq Durbar. But there is a bit of cool sunglass wearing: both this film and Tuck Jagadish score an A+ in the style quotient.
The delicate romance between Jagadish and his gal Gumma Varalakshmi is awesome. And it makes you sigh with happiness. You’ll love why he’s called ‘Tuck’ Jagdish, and also wonder which version of Singham you’d prefer. But two movies of two stars releasing within 24 hours of each other makes for a double treat for movie fans! Which means, your Sunday is set!
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.