Naai Sekar Review: This painfully unfunny film leaves you dog-tired
Though appreciable for its intent to give a quirky spin to the man-animal bondage, there's little to redeem in this excruciatingly boring film with painful humour
Watch any scene from Eddie Murphy's Doctor Dolittle films and you are bound to feel upbeat. For the '90s kid' - the eponymous section of the audience that pop culture has been milking content from and to - movies featuring animals, like George of the Jungle, The Lion King, Tarzan, 101 Dalmatians, and so on were a routine Sunday evening watch. Kishore Rajkumar's Naai Sekar too banks a lot on the 90s nostalgia to add shades to its quirky titular character, Sekar (played by Sathish). There's even a song called 90s kid to serve this purpose. However, if only they had explored this further and incorporated the boons of those classic animal films, Naai Sekar would have turned out to be a memorable entertainer.
The film begins with a shot of caged animals and birds inside a research lab. We hear a news relay that says that scientist Rajarajan (George Mariyan), the brain behind unlicensed experiments on these animals, is banned by scientific bodies. That was way back in 1999. In present-day Chennai, we are introduced to Sekar, an IT professional stuck in a fruitless job. He falls in love with his colleague Pooja (Pavithra Lakshmi), who seems to be interested more in Sekar's photography skills than him. One day, a labrador dog from Rajarajan's lab escapes and bites Sekar in the leg. As a result of biological voodoo, the DNAs of Sekar and that of the dog are exchanged, we are told. The dog gets a human consciousness, and well, Sekar becomes Naai Sekar. The title card arrives, after over 30 mins of excruciating scenes to set up this world.
Director: Kishore Rajkumar
Cast: Sathish, Pavithra Lakshmi, George Mariyan, Shankar Ganesh
What keeps our interests piqued during these initial portions are the amusing little creative choices. The animals in Rajarajan's lab, for instance, are named after the titles of famous Rajinikanth movies, like Murattukaalai, Dharmathin Thalaivan, Kabali, etc. In fact, the labrador is named Padaiyappa. Another one is a laugh-out-loud sequence that comes just before the pivotal bite when Padaiyappa and Sekar face-off for the first time. The music and the framing make it look like a Western stand-off, with a bag of meat and a salivating mouth doubling up as revolvers. However, the amusement in such sporadically entertaining moments barely sustains, although mirthless writing demands us to sit through for long stretches to even get to some half-baked moments.
Adding misery to matters, many unnecessary characters hijack the screen with scores of joyless scenes. Take, for instance, Manobala, who appears as an unintentionally unfunny boss to Sekar. While his presence is only meant to ensure that Sekar doesn't get a promotion in his job, we are also made witness to jokes like the term 'wife-sharing' being played as a derogatory pun on 'wi-fi-sharing'. Oh, the wordplays and innuendos in this film couldn't have been worse even if they tried.
If the supporting characters weren't enough, we get two antagonists as well: one is an owner of a Chinese restaurant called Bong Joon Ho (You get the reference?), and the other is Thanni Thotti Sukumar (Shankar Ganesh), a gangster. While these may have been great places to introduce sub-plots, neither of these really find an anchor. While Bala (of Kalakka Povathu Yaaru-fame) seems like a great addition in a film that desperately needed quick one-line 'mokka' counters, one joke would sum up how grand his jokes were. When his fellow dog thief asks him "Murugan dollar-ah? Aiyappan dollar-ah?" Bala says "Ehn! American Dollar-u." Oh, I didn't wake up early morning and pay money to see such jokes on a big screen, Bala!
After it was announced that actor Shiva would voice for the dog in Naai Sekar, it was one of the many things that piqued interest in the film. However, it is disappointing that he is never allowed to shine on his own, once again thanks to all the space that a bunch of other characters occupy. Naai Sekar is majorly saved by Sathish and Pavithra. Though she doesn't get enough scenes to help us understand the character deeper, Pavithra does what was required of her with ease. Sathish, on the other hand, really puts his all to create impact as Naai Sekar - he dances, even if the song placement is jarring; he cries and emotes sufficiently, even if the writing never lets these emotions translate on-screen; and he acts like a dog, even if the film never really delves deeper into the nature of these beautiful animals beyond their generic behavior. It's as if Sekar got Sathish's DNA, but the undercooked character offers nothing back to Sathish. Though Naai Sekar will be a hardly memorable film to me, it is nice to be reminded of such animal films. After all, I didn't know I wanted to witness a labrador, voiced by Shiva, drive a police jeep with Ghilli's Arjunar Villu song playing in the background. If only the screenplay found a rhythm to work on, I wouldn't have minded even if a labrador danced to Anirudh Ravichander's tunes.