Naadodigal 2 Movie Review: Worthy addition to a loud but effective franchise
Samuthirakani's quick-fix solution to every problem is utopian for sure, but the earnestness of that intent surely comes across
Samuthirakani, the actor, might play a tobacco-chewing villain with equal aplomb as he plays the one-note, but good-natured Dhayalan in the Samuthirakani Cinematic Universe (SCU). However, as a director, he is as conscientious as they come. The one thing common to most of his films is the presence of a hero who, come what may, always stands for what's right. This trait was best embodied by Sasikumar, then a one-film-old actor, in the 2009 runaway hit, Naadodigal.
Cast: Sasikumar, Anjali, Bharani, Athulya Ravi
Producer: Madras Enterprises
A decade later, the actor and director have come together for Naadodigal 2. Things have changed since 2009. Samuthirakani is no longer a director looking for his first major commercial success. Sasikumar is not just another one-hit-wonder. The excitement surrounding franchises, reboots, and sequels isn't the same anymore. And Naadodigal 2 finally hits the screens overcoming a series of financial issues that plagued it even till the day of its release. However, right from the central plot point of caste-based killings to reaffirming the continuing need for the ideals of Periyar, the talking points of Naadodigal 2 remain topical even now.
For the uninitiated, the SCU films can be too melodramatic, too loud, and too message-y. Not everyone likes to go to a theatre for a sermon on literally every issue plaguing the country. The initial few scenes in Naadodigal 2 point towards the film following the same path. We see Sasikumar and his fellow comrades, including Anjali and franchise-regular Bharani, trying to question anarchy, espouse the need for clean toilets, protest against pollution, and attempt to form a casteless collective. Thankfully, they do all of this, including a song or two, and execute an interval-block-worthy sequence, well within half-hour of the runtime. While this feels almost anti-climactic, it is right up SCU's alley. We know that a high point doesn't really translate into a massy interval block. There is always something else, and here, it is the innumerable failed marriage proposals that come to Sasikumar's Jeeva. As his uncle (Gnanasambandam in an interesting role) says, "Avanukku ulagathila irukra periya ketta pazhakkam irukku - podhu nalam." It is this podhu nalam that threatens to spoil his marriage with Sowmya (Athulya Ravi). And it is this podhu nalam that drives the entire movie, and of course, the SCU.
However, what makes Naadodigal 2 particularly interesting is that the sermons, which are unusually short, have call-backs during the later portions of the film. The trans woman who becomes a beacon of hope of sorts by becoming a police officer isn't just there because one more box can be ticked. The opening video of honour killing isn't just there to motivate Sasikumar & co to start a casteless society. It is such asides that make Naadodigal 2 unlike recent films in the SCU, which were more like message boards than movies.
Though the film is titled Naadodigal 2, it is not a sequel and is more of a reboot. Here too, Sasikumar and friends help unite a love that is torn apart due to caste and class issues. Here too, Sasikumar and friends get hurt, physically and mentally, trying to save someone else's love. But despite all this, Samuthirakani manages to convince us that it is a new film, except for a spectacular call-back to the original. He is helped in this journey by Sasikumar, music director Justin Prabhakaran, and an extremely effective Anjali, who plays a no-nonsense firebrand comrade. Take, for instance, the scene where she admonishes Sasikumar for not being able to translate his principles into action. "Unga pagutharivum, penniyamum oorukku dhaan la..." Even in the lighter moments, it is Anjali who does the heavy lifting, and she does it with consummate ease, giving us a lasting image of a blushing Sasikumar reciting corny poems.
Comparisons with the original are unavoidable, and the biggest challenge would have been to recreate the success of the Sambo Siva Sambo track composed by Sundar C Babu. In Naadodigal 2, Justin lives up to the challenge and delivers a track, Baga Baga, which, although equally rousing, is surprisingly louder. This loudness in the background score is there right from the opening credits until the end, taking a break only for a couple of well-composed songs that unfortunately feel out of place.
In Thevar Magan, Sivaji, when confronted by Kamal Haasan about the barbarian attitude of his caste people, says, "2000 varushama, vel-kambaiyum, aruvaalaiyum thookikittu suthikittu irundha payanga... Dhideernu vignyanam pesa vaa nu koopta epdi varuvaan... nee padichavan, koottitu vaa, aana avan medhuva dhaan varuvaan..." In Naadodigal 2, Samuthirakani doesn't think playing the waiting game is of use to anyone. Here, Jeeva angrily says, "2000 varusham veri, rendu maasathula epdi adangum..."
While Samuthirakani's quick-fix solution to this problem isn't just utopian but also a logistical and bureaucratic nightmare, I appreciated the earnestness of that intent. Who wouldn't want some hope in these trying times, even if it is too loud, too preachy, and well... too Samuthirakani-esque?