Naai Sekar Returns Movie Review: Very few laughs in this rather disappointing Vadivelu comeback
Long stretches of comedy scenes are so poorly written that even the now-famous laboured English and facial contortions of Vadivelu that kept us in splits once upon a time just aren’t enough anymore
There is no doubt that there is a huge vacuum in Tamil comedy ever since Vadivelu took a sabbatical of sorts. While there were many aspirants to the throne that once had Vadivelu sprawling on, it was clear that no one could really fill that space. Until, director Suraaj, known for sketching one of Vadivelu’s most memorable characters Naai Sekar, decided to bring the actor back to the big screen after five years. However, with Naai Sekar Returns, Suraaj takes the easy way out and just capitalises on nostalgia rather than dishing out something memorable.
Cast: Vadivelu, Anandraj, Rao Ramesh, Shivani Narayanan
The film starts with an almost mythical tale of a ‘magical’ dog, which can bring fortune to its owners. Soon, we are thrown into the present where we meet Naai Sekar (Vadivelu) and Dass (Anandraj). While Dass kidnaps people and holds them ransom, Naai Sekar kidnaps dogs and holds them ransom. At one point, their worlds meet, and it is absolute mayhem after that. But by the time we reach that point, we are subject to inane scenes that just relies on the uninspiring milking of the legend’s repertoire of facial expressions and dialogue delivery. It is almost like the makers forgot that these facets of Vadivelu only accentuated the writing of his comedy. Be it the nonchalance of Kaipullai from Winner or the purported seriousness of a Contractor Nesamani from Friends, the writing was razor sharp and it was elevated by Vadivelu’s penchant for the absurd and slapstick. In Naai Sekar Returns, long stretches of comedy scenes are so poorly written that even the now-famous laboured English and facial contortions that kept us in splits once upon a time just aren’t enough anymore.
The dog kidnapping scenes needed a lot more ingenuity and spunk than what we have in Naai Sekar Returns. Our minds almost yearn for something else to happen onscreen to get away from the potential trainwreck. What serves as a distraction from the abysmal shenanigans of Naai Sekar and his team (Redin Kingsley, Prashanth, and Shivangi), is the presence of Dass and his team. In fact, Anandraj and Co get the better comedy set-pieces and hilarious payoffs.
Naai Sekar Returns is also a classic case of two halves, as post-interval, the film finds itself in a firm yet familiar territory when it moves to Hyderabad to introduce us to a new villain, Max (Rao Ramesh). The connection to the fable-ish dog from the prologue is neatly brought together, and Naai Sekar Returns actually piques our curiosity. While the film always had a quirky soundtrack and caricaturish production design, it is only in the final act that all of these elements gel well together. It is also in these last 30 minutes that the makers finally not just find the method in the madness, but manage to find the humour too. While the laughs keep coming, we are also reminded of the lost opportunities in the preceding two acts that flattered to deceive.
Naai Sekar Returns begins with a ‘Thank You’ card to the meme creators who kept the legacy of Vadivelu alive even when he spent all those years away from the limelight. However, nostalgia is a funny thing. We would love to think about the past, but would prefer the present to offer something new and better. At the peak of his career, Vadivelu easily overshadowed some of the biggest stars in films that starred him as a comedian. However, with Naai Sekar Returns, starring him in the lead, we see the same happen to him. Watching Vadivelu caricature himself is a great disservice to the man who made us laugh during some of our toughest times. But to paraphrase his own dialogue, “Avarukku end-e kidaiyaadhu,” and that throne is still waiting for him to return and sprawl all over it.