Baba Black Sheep Movie Review: The gags make you smile, but the pathos make you laugh
The film which feels wanting yet comfortable in the fun portions, capitalising on the comical skills of the actors, feels like a monster truck in the hands of a toddler in the serious parts.
It isn't an exaggeration to call Rajmohan's Baba Black Sheep a star vehicle. While the traditional star films cash in on the off-screen image and strong zones of the star, the new wave of online celebrity-fronted films like Baba Black Sheep skips the baby steps of constructing a persona for the actors over time and jump right to the boss stage of build-ups. The director throws in a host of references to their internet presence and weaves a makeshift story just to aid these references. Well, like every genre and sub-genre these films exist because of their audience. But if you are someone who isn't quite familiar with the Tamil YouTube scene, a major chunk of Baba Black Sheep will leave you with a pertinent question: What is happening, and why?
Director: Rajmohan Arumugam
Cast: Ammu Abhirami, Abdul Ayaz, Narendra Prasad and RJ Vigneshkanth
With a lot spun around the popularity of these social media superstars, there is very little room for genuine creativity in the writing. Though the core story of Baba Black Sheep, surrounding the light-hearted ego clash of two rival schools, could have made for a fairly entertaining film with the right effort in the screenplay, Rajmohan chooses to settle for the bare minimum by aping the template of a YouTube comedy sketch for most parts. The terrible casting of fully-grown adults for the role of 11th graders adds more to the disconnect. But to give credit where it's due, the comical portions are less 'cringe' and actually effective in parts. However, the same can't be said about the portions where the film tries hard to suddenly be serious and preachy, especially in the final act.
The film which feels wanting yet comfortable in the fun portions, capitalising on the comical skills of the actors, feels like a monster truck in the hands of a toddler in the serious parts. In an attempt to present an affecting anti-suicide message, Rajmohan presses all the wrong buttons, making the tragedy in the tale unintentionally hilarious. Take the scene where Abhirami (Virumaandi-fame) rushes to the hospital searching for her injured daughter. She stops a doctor in the hallway and asks,"Ennoda kozhandhaiku ennachu?" miming each word out in slow-mo, leaving the theatre in splits.
In another crucial hospital sequence, a bunch of people anxiously await the health status of a student who is being operated on in the ICU. Before the seriousness of the scene can settle in, a character in the crowd randomly spots a newborn baby in the maternity ward on the other end and yells, "Aambala kozhandhaiya pombala kozhandhaya?" with a disturbingly gleeful smile. I understand that the character does this to give a segue for the father of the injured student to go on a monologue about the hardships of parenting. But we all know that people don't and can't behave like this in real life and this basic barrier is enough for us to be uninterested in the following moral science lessons by the filmmaker.
It's quite alarming that the film that seems to care about the mental health and life of the students doesn't even bother to discuss the idea of seeking professional help. Guess what is the one ultimate solution they profess to all the complex problems of a teenager is: Sharing it with a friend! But, what if one's actual problem is not having friends? Or what if the problem is beyond the capacity of the listening, empathetic peer? Well, the film doesn't break a sweat pondering about it. Baba Black Sheep just moves on from the social message checkbox to ticking the humour checkbox, and after a while, such mechanical switching between issues just feel disconcerting.
Baba Black Sheep also seems to be a bit confused about its target audience. Though it mainly tries to cater to the Gen Z or 2K kids, I really doubt if they would enjoy or even get the dated references, which are better suited for the previous Gen Y.
The spontaneous and witty humour we expected from the makers finally arrives in the post-credits sequences, where the crew impersonate the audience and give dramatic vox-pop reviews of the film. A bunch of guys even exclaim, "Ammu Abhirami padathula saagala bro! Padam super bro!" taking a dig at her roles so far. But it's quite unsettling that the team of such creative minds only have these little moments of genuine laughter to offer us in a full-fledged feature film.
More than the tonal inconsistency, it is the monotonous characterisation of all the lead roles that irks us the most. Almost all of these characters seem to be cut from the same material and lack a unique personality. Restricting the portrayal of all these students to just being social media-savvy or video game addicts is a huge turn-off.
In the opening credits of the film, Rajmohan mentions in a voiceover that the 2k kids brand everything as 'cringe' these days and it is hard to win over them. I thought with such self-awareness, things couldn't possibly go wrong, especially when it is made for the very own 2k kids, but alas!