Andhra Mess Review: A lot of interesting bits that add up to nothing
A newage dark humour that works only in parts
If a film can be categorised simply by what it's packed with, a la judging a restaurant on the dishes on display, then Jai's Andhra Mess could be called a delicious mix of black comedy and bizarre action. There's a delightful piece of absurdist music early on, set to the title credits and surreal imagery in the form of obscure paintings. There's a riotous interview scene involving the selection of moralistic (yeah, you read that right!) henchmen. There is a running gag about a character called Ritchie who farts his way out of the most ridiculous of circumstances. The don's in-house assistant/advisor is a hearing-impaired Brahmin 'thaatha', who uses a portable typewriter to negotiate ransoms. There is an impromptu game with an egg, which almost escalates into a crazy break-up. There is a wisdom-spouting zamindar, whose bucket-list is done and dusted, except for a final face-off with a tiger (!). Random wordplay (ranging from terrific rib-ticklers to ones like "Gun kuduthiye, bun kuduthiya?") get regularly thrown around by characters, who seem to be competing in a who-can-hold-their-poker-face-the-longest contest. A random female character is introduced just to deliver the line, "Owning a gun endows better security than marrying a man." Every action set-piece is almost compulsorily set to junked-up versions of old Tamil classics. And to top it all, there is the fourth-wall breaking narration - awash in (non-) existential philosophy - that the director keeps breaking into. Nothing is new, but it's all quite unorthodox.
Cast: Raj Bharath, AP Shreethar, Thejaswini, Pooja Devariya, Vinoth, Balaji Mohan
However, the film, which is about four gangsters on the run, just doesn't come together. For one, it tries too hard to be quirky, and in that endeavour, ends up losing out on its soul, the conflict. More importantly, the writing seems non-existent, as the proceedings often come across as a random medley of scenes strewn together. So, why don't these apparently interesting bits and pieces add up? With our limited experience with black comedies, it's safe to deduce that 'quirk' in these films acts as a double-edged sword. While it's great for seasoning, Andhra Mess is what you get, if it's the main, or only, ingredient. It is as if the director came up with a handful of ideas, and felt compelled to connect these bits through a 'script' - which even at ninety-three minutes seems like a drag. Some of the scenes sound great on paper. But they are staged so poorly that we are always kept at an arm's length. With the villains reduced to buffoons early on, no one is in any real danger at any time. And even if they were, we wouldn't have cared.
But all said, in a comedy culture that is starved of any kind of variety, you find it difficult to dismiss something like Andhra Mess, even though it does use a mispronunciation of 'elixir of life' as 'elikku kulurudha' for laughs.