Merlin Review: Less horror and more fancy dress competition
Despite having a protagonist, who mouths dialogues like "Cinema na creative da," there's absolutely nothing creative about this film, except maybe the clothes worn by the ghost
The authenticity of the rural portions set in the 1960s and the well-researched tribute to Tamil cinema's legends kept my eyes glued to the screen for the first five minutes of Merlin. But just as I settled in, expecting to see a one-of-a-kind rural horror film, the screen jump cut to Power Star Srinivasan's face, revealing that the period portion was just an imaginary story narration of wannabe big-time director Vetri (Vishnu Priyan). I swallowed my disappointment, hoping that the film, though not what I expected, would be okay all the same. Little did I know that my true struggle for sanity had just begun.
Cast: Vishnu Priyan, Ashwini Chandrasekar, Lollu Sabha Jeeva
A character named Nithya--introduced as a kudumba kuthu vilaku--starts wearing skimpy clothes, gets drunk and barges into a room full of men, including our protagonist Vetri, and starts to live there for no reason. Random characters pop in and out of every scene trying to deliver their Oscar-winning performances. Vetri outrages for the simplest of reasons and goes around slapping almost every person within hands reach. (Thank God, I was sitting in the third row!)
Vetri's biggest problem is that he can't find a quiet workspace to finish his dream script. He could've easily resolved this by moving to a nearby coffee shop, but no, that would be too logical for this movie. So instead, he decides to stay in the same noisy room and chase his roommates away by cooking up a ghost story.
The ghost, Merlin (Ashwini Chandrasekar), eventually comes to life clad in a short dress and blonde wig, impersonating Marilyn Monroe (or trying to). The audience, who were meant to have chills running down their spine, were instead left in splits by the sight of this ghost who tries to scare people by grinding an imaginary walnut in her mouth.
Despite Vishnu Priyan mouthing dialogues like "Cinema na creative da," there's absolutely nothing creative about the film except maybe the clothes worn by the ghost. There are several unintentional-laughter-evoking moments like a Godman threatening to kill a ghost and Nithya doing an item dance in the middle of Merlin's tragic backstory.
Ashwini Chandrasekaran, who has donned three different roles in the film, manages to deliver a decent performance as Rashiya Begum, which somewhat compensates for her mediocre act as the ghost. While Vishnu Priyan looks confused for most of his screentime, he does finally manage to impress the audience in the scene where he gets possessed.
Renigunta-fame Ganesh Raghavendra's music is a major let down. But, the film's true villain is editor Samuel. His PowerPoint like transition effects and abrupt cuts in the middle of crucial scenes make you wonder whether the film is just one of his editing exercises.
Realism goes for a toss at regular intervals throughout the story. In one scene, Vetri runs almost a half marathon frightened by the half-burnt face of his lover, and yet, at no point in the film, does he realise that his deceased lover, the ghost that haunted him and his newly wedded wife are the same person.
Though the film has several issues, two questions kept boggling my mind as I left the hall, "Why the yellow wig?" and "Why name the film Merlin when it is originally M-A-R-I-L-Y-N?"