DSP Movie Review: Vijay Sethupathi, Prabhakar anchor Ponram's middling attempt to get back on track
An effective Vijay Sethupathi and a convincing Prabhakar do their best to drive home DSP to a safe end even if it stumbles and stutters along the way
When actors and directors with distinct styles collaborate, it is never a perfect balance of worlds. Depending on the stature of either party, the film tends to tilt slightly to one side. Even if director Ponram is in a slump of sorts, the filmmaker has a proven track record with his brand of comedy setpieces. On the other hand, Vijay Sethupathi has an eclectic style that hasn’t yet been perfected for his sojourns as a lead hero in proper masala films. Interestingly, these two worlds collide head on in DSP, and it is almost like both their sensibilities alternate in the narrative. If there is a Vijay Sethupathi-ism thrown in during an important fight, we also have a slapstick Ponram-ism making its way into the same sequence. This oscillation between these two worlds results in a few interesting asides in an otherwise template commercial film.
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Anukreethy Vas, Ilavarasu, Prabhakar
DSP Vascodagama (Vijay Sethupathi) takes on a dreaded Chennai gangster to facilitate a transfer to his home city of Dindigul. Why did he have to do this specific task to get a transfer? We don’t know. Firstly, why is the protagonist named Vascodagama? We don’t know. Also, why does he allow his friends to make fun of a small-built dark-skinned suitor for his sister when she has been rejected by a series of prospective grooms citing her appearance?? We don’t know. Why is a meet-cute between Vascodagama and Annapoorani (Anukreethy Vas) that is both funny and smart soon followed up with straight-up harassment in the name of wooing? We don’t know. There are many more dichotomies in the film that we might not have the answer for, but the film continues to chug along from one scene to another thanks to a strong hero, and an even stronger villain, Mutta Ravi (Prabhakar). The setting up of the conflict isn’t something we haven’t seen before. In fact, some of the pivotal plot points in the film were reminiscent of Vishal films like Sandakozhi or Thimiru. But an effective Vijay Sethupathi and a convincing Prabhakar do their best to drive home DSP to a safe end even if it stumbles and stutters along the way.
The problems in DSP are definitely aplenty, and it starts right from the time Annapoorani is brought into the picture. Even if we first see her as an ambitious woman, she is soon relegated to playing the trope of a feisty village girl. Annapoorani also goes absent for long stretches of time, only to return for a hackneyed sequence with a special cameo. Did I laugh for certain portions in that stretch? Yes. Did it help the film at all? No. Unfortunately, there were more scenes in DSP that elicited similar responses. Entire comedy set-pieces involving a police station and their shenanigans could be construed to be funny, for sure, but they definitely belong to another film altogether.
Glorification of trigger-happy cops notwithstanding, DSP also tries to be a commentary on how many police officers are arm-twisted by the powers that be to do their bidding. While the retaliation by DSP Vasco is anything but novel, brief spurts of ingenuity work in favour of the film. Be it during a chase sequence, or even an interrogation scene, there are certain crowd-pleasing moments injected into the film too keep the film engaging. Another facet that Ponram gets right is definitely the establishment of Vasco’s relationship dynamics. His equation with his father (Ilavarasu), friend (Linga), and friend’s father is beautifully staged. There are very poignant moments involving Vasco and these characters that balance out the cliches of the rest of the film. The same thing holds good with the antagonist’s story too, which is superficially very simple but has a layer or two to pique our interest.
After a rather disappointing outing in his previous film, Ponram manages to get back on track with DSP. It is almost like Vijay Sethupathi’s Sethupathi-styled cop meets the humour levels of a Seema Raja. This might not seem a palatable medley, but it somehow manages to stay afloat as an almost entertaining, but definitely confused film stuck between a template and a good place.