Ghajinikanth review: Despite some laughs, not a particularly charming remake
While it remains quite faithful to the original, the film has some issues, such as a cursory love angle and punch-down humour
The biggest takeaway for me from Ghajinikanth is how underutilised actor Sampath is in the industry. Often made to play the villain or a glorified henchman — like in Kaala — it’s so refreshing to see him play a character with as much dignity as he does in Ghajinikanth. He’s in control of this film, and his character is even given the opportunity to bring about the resolution of this story. Indeed, it's not even a stretch to say that much of the humour in this film is created around his character. His stoic presence helps make the jokes a lot more enjoyable than they actually are. It's another matter, of course, that much of the effective humour in this film comes quite late in the day.
Director: Santhosh P Jayakumar
Cast: Arya, Sayyeshaa, Sathish
This remake of Nani’s Telugu film, Bhale Bhale Magadivoy, remains quite faithful to the original. The big difference is all the Rajinikanth flavouring that the protagonist's character, named after the Superstar, gets. You keep hearing famous tracks from his films, like Vetrikodikattu, which serve to punctuate the actions of the hero. I'm not sure if it adds much to this film at all. The whole comparison with Rajinikanth's character in Dharmathin Thalaivan feels rather tenuous, and perhaps this film's Rajinikanth (Arya) may have been all the better for an unfussy introduction, like in the Telugu original. A big part of the enjoyment of the Telugu film was on account of Nani's charms, and despite his evident comfort with the visual gags, it must be said that Arya doesn't quite hold this story together in a way that his Telugu predecessor did. It's perhaps most evident in a scene towards the end, when he gets to showboat. It's a rare poignant scene that demands that Rajinikanth cry, fake-laugh, and cry again. Nani sells it in the Telugu film in a way Arya just doesn't seem to be able to.
The love angle is cursory (the heroine's intro has her hair flying in slo-mo as the hero looks on besotted), the songs a drag. It's all par for the course, I guess. The strength of the film is the humour, and alas, even that isn't without issues. It seems it just cannot be said enough that there's nothing clever or courageous about attempting to derive humour by punching down. There's one about a beggar where the joke ostensibly is the repetitive mentions of 'pichaikaaran'. There's one even worse. When Rajinikanth's family realises that he has no hope in the arranged marriage arena -- on account of his chronic forgetfulness -- their way of expressing it is by saying he can only get married to the housemaid. Upon hearing this, she comes running, only to be dismissed rudely. I found it impossible not to feel intense dislike towards this film's idea of humour.
But it does get better. Sathish and Arya run riot towards the end of the film, in stretches reminiscent of many a classic Tamil comedy based on the idea of impersonation. It's quite funny and leaves you walking out with a good aftertaste -- especially if you are the sort to get lulled by that comforting hug after many a slap.