Monster Review: SJ Suryah shines in a middling comedy
It is that kind of film that doesn't give you much to complain about, but also not much to rave about
What do you do when you have a rat in your house? It's the kind of question that adults instantly bond over. Stories are shared, suggestions are given -- it's something that instantly incites a conversation. Nelson Venkatesan, (whose Oru Naal Koothu, I rather liked) probably thought that there is potential to get both kids and adults interested with a conceit like this -- the kids should enjoy the antics of the rat, the adults will be able to empathise with the protagonist. But the film pushes its wafer-thin storyline too far, making Monster feel like an overstretched short-film.
It's not the core conceit that is an issue, but rather the strap-on tracks, added to make the film run beyond two-hours that makes it feel bloated. In an interview, Nelson admits that ‘he doesn’t particularly like writing romance’. However, he does conjure a wry, breezy romance between Anjanam and Mekala (Priya Bhavani Shankar, who strongly reminds me of Trisha). While the film gets the subtlety right, I wish Mekala’s character was as defined as Anjanam. As a result, the romance track feels like a ploy to extend the run time, and cover all bases for the family audiences. To add insult to injury, there is a sub-plot of smuggling that just doesn't blend with the film's tone and narrative.
Director: Nelson Venkatesan
Cast: SJ Suryah, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Karunakaran
The film might be titled Monster, but Anjanam Azhagu Pillai (an earnest and effective SJ Suryah) holds the fort. As the meek, diffident, good-natured engineer who is an ardent follower of Vallalar, SJ Suryah is a breath of fresh air. A conditioned product of rejection, Anjanam accepts what he gets, wholeheartedly. There is a self-effacing charm to his demeanour -- he doesn’t kill a centipede that lands on his dining table, he lets it free on a tree. The writing is the strongest in these parts. Along with Ravi (Karunakaran), Anjanam gets several nice moments that make you laugh out loud. The problem is they stay as individual moments, as the film tries to make up its mind between being a true-blood kids film and say, something similar to a Pixar film.
One of the biggest selling points of Monster was the fact that the crew had shot a live rat. There are several close-up shots of the rat in action, making me wonder how they managed to pull it off. The film cleverly juggles between a first-person view and a third-person view to capture the rat, but the apparent differences in the visual tone stick out like a sour thumb. Also, Justin Prabhakaran’s ambitious over-the-top score for the rat was a bit too much for the simple film that Monster strives to be.
Nelson believes in making films for targeted audiences. Oru Naal Koothu, he said, was aimed at youngsters who were about to marry. Monster is a film aimed at the family audiences, which means it has to be kid-friendly. But, as a huge fan of Pixar's seemingly simple but deep narratives, maybe I expected too much. It is that kind of film that doesn't give you much to complain about, but also not much to rave about.