Friday, August 31, 2012

Mugamoodi (2012)

I have always been apprehensive of Indian films with science fiction or superhero elements. We are not a country with a pop-culture history populated with comic book characters. Sure, we have Shaktimaan, the only superhero I would like to acknowledge, but its mythology drew heavy inspiration for many of its crucial elements from Superman. Our cities are not cluttered with skyscrapers, our roads don't look good on camera, and we cannot afford to spend on CGI because we need a lot of money to film those coordinated musical numbers on the hills of Machu Picchu. So when I say I was skeptical walking in to the theater, I hope you understand my reasons. Mysskin's Mugamoodi looked anything but appealing from whatever little I saw of it in promos. Though he has been an inconsistent filmmaker, I still trusted him to have a vision unique enough to make us overlook the shortcomings. 

Bruce Lee a.k.a Anand (Jiiva) is an unemployed youth, Kung Fu and alcohol being his prime interests. When he is not busy doing the either of the two, he spends his time with his grandfather. He abuses his skills indiscriminately beating people up. Naren, we learn, is another highly trained fighter who is part of a far more successful Kung Fu school. He moonlights as the leader of a sophisticated gang of robbers who use cool gadgets to steal from rich, unsuspecting old people. Gaurav, played by Nasser is the cop assigned to stop this string of robberies. Their paths cross and Lee gets falsely accused of a murder. The film takes its time to open but manages to provide a semi-convincing reason behind his motivations. 

I liked how there are no dead parents, radioactive spiders or power-giving aliens here. To clear his name, Lee finds himself in a position where he can only find refuge behind his mask. His grandfather (Girish Karnad) happens to be a scientist who builds fancy robots which seemingly do nothing more than those we find near Marina beach which predict one's future. His Grandpa's friend is a tailor who creates costumes and other props. How convenient! Together they stitch him up a suit complete with armour and Zebronics headphones broken into two, which never gets used. Oh and there's a cape too, don't ask why. The cheap looking props are least of the movie's worries. Things go more or less fine till the intermission. It's only when he gets into his suit that the problem starts.

The film uncontrollably slips into absurdity and becomes unintentionally hilarious, losing every last bit of seriousness. Almost every scene involving Lee's Kung Fu master will make you laugh out loud. There's a particular scene where he can be seen practicing with a wooden dummy which had the audience in splits for all the wrong reasons. I cannot recall the last time I laughed so hard watching a Tamil movie. At one point, he tells Lee that there is this one particular skill he hasn't taught him yet. Handily, Mugamoodi finds himself in need of exactly that during the final fight sequence. Naren's acting was gimmicky and comical to say the least. He wears a funny mask for some reasons but still keeps showing his face to people. As if that wasn't enough, there's an insane backstory about his past. With that, Mysskin hammered (pun unintended) the final nail in the coffin called Naren's acting career. It was more than I could take.

Much of the story takes place at night and those scenes were shot rather well. Thankfully, there were only two songs, which still managed to hinder the otherwise even pace. The Chennai cops are more inept than usual- a move, I suspect, to make the bad guys look better. There's a scene with Gaurav telling the Press that the Police force is not ashamed to accept they need a vigilante's help to catch a dozen criminals. Well, I think they should be ashamed. There is always at least one weird character in Mysskin's films and we have a hunchback here for no apparent reason. The fist-fights were choreographed rather well. 

Jiiva's likability helps salvage the film to an extent. At the end of first half, I admit I even wished for a sequel. But all the charm fizzled and it was all downhill post interval. Mysskin had to try harder than usual to make the film appear convincingly slick. I am not saying we need high-rises to make a superhero movie, but we do if our filmmakers are merely going to recreate the kind of superhero films we usually see in Hollywood. I will give it points for trying but none for failing at it. It had me convinced that making a superhero movie in the Indian milieu is impossible; but that's not true, is it? If redefining the genre to suit the Indian setting is too hard to accomplish, they can still rely on Kick-Ass like spoofs. When the villain in your superhero movie is motivated by gold bars, you know you are doing it wrong. Mugamoodi is not the superhero movie we deserve; but the question is: do we even need one?

*contains spoilers*
The one aspect of this movie I quite liked was how the ending was not entirely predictable. I was certain Mugamoodi was ultimately going to make sure all the charges against Lee were dropped. Besides the death of his close friend, it was this selfish motive that came across as the main reason for him to fight this gang in the first place. So after Naren falls to his death, Mugamoodi surprisingly shows no sign of removing his mask. He refuses to kiss the girl he likes and runs away like Batman does at the end of The Dark Knight. I mean, the cops aren't even chasing him. Chennai Police is only too happy that someone is helping them out and have no intention to curb this vigilantism. Till this point, this guy has done nothing as a service to the public. He was only settling his personal scores. So I don't quite get why he continues being the நேசிக்கத்தக்க அக்கம்பக்கம் வீரன்-- the friendly neighborhood hero.