Viewfinder: A loveable monster
The writer talks about how not many films nowadays deserve the 'U' certification, and how Nelson Venkatesan-SJ Suryah's film, Monster, is a pleasant exception
This is a time when nobody bats an eyelid when in an U-certified film, a man slices his knife through several adversaries — like in last week’s NGK. Children walking around the house pretending to have a knife stuck in their shoulders — as happens to an important female character in NGK — must not be a pleasant sight at all. If it isn’t violence, it’s double entendres — like in Mr. Local. Children asking their parents what ‘kooti kudukardhu’ means — used in a Mr. Local joke — must not be a pleasant question to answer either. So, it was with almost a sense of resignation that I went in to catch the U-certified Monster recently, many days after its release. That it featured SJ Suryah, who has had a rich history of creating colourful films, didn’t do much to quell the alarm either.
And for the next couple of hours, director Nelson Venkatesan proceeded to rubbish every single concern of mine. An utterly delightful film, Monster is perhaps the most enjoyable child-friendly film I’ve seen in a long time in Tamil cinema. Often, our films that are made with the best interests of children in mind often turn out to be simplistic sermons — the Pasanga sequel and a Samuthirakani film or two come to mind. A children’s film is a delicate thing and needs to walk a tight rope. It can’t afford to dumb down concepts and become tiresome for adults. At the same time, it can’t — and this is a familiar mistake — incorporate age-inappropriate ideas to keep the adults interested. Monster gets this balance beautifully. The moving kindness at the heart of this film makes it an important film for children. It conveys this without once sermonising, and while being gloriously entertaining.
Many of our recent stories aspire for the lofty, and often try to transform everyday characters into supremos to signify growth and success. How refreshing then to see a middle-class man, played by SJ Suryah, express profound grief over a… damaged sofa. What a relief to see an everyday object like wooden chimes be a symbol of love. And above all, how important it is to see even a pesky disease-spreading rodent be treated with kindness. Even an incredibly annoying character — the irritable neighbour, who would, in other films, get bullied — comes useful in this story. Everything in this film, including its romance, screams 'U'. At a time when quite a few films don’t seem to deserve their 'U', this one does, and wears it proudly on its sleeve, while bringing back simple entertainment back to these films.
This child-friendliness is in its jokes too. As SJ Suryah’s character dances about in a prospective new house, Karunakaran quips, “Idhukku paer dhaan veetta suththi paakardho?” The effective simplicity of this film is also manifest in the life of its dialogues. All it takes to convey the uncomplicated, kind person SJ Suryah’s character is, is one line: “Enakku edhu kadaikudho, adhu pidikkum.”
I have only one regret concerning Monster: I wish I had watched it earlier. This is an age when films swamp our screens every week. With streaming content joining the fray, it’s getting harder and harder to catch them all. Nevertheless, I’m glad I caught Monster, a film that needs to be praised to the skies. This is perhaps the first time I’m saying this in a long, long, long time: Go, take your children to this film.