A familiar ghost serves as humour fodder, again
Remember when Subramaniapuram ’s success spawned a whole host of Madurai-based gangster films? It’s as if Tamil filmmakers sat up suddenly and concluded that the reason for the film’s success was its setting and genre.
A few years later came Raghava Lawrence’s horror film Kanchana: Muni 2, that again went on to become a huge hit. The industry folk immediately changed their stance, and decided that the Tamil audience was now primed for horror. Ghost after ghost was thrown at us, and innumerable jokes created out of the hero and his friends quaking in fear. The latest in a long list of recent Tamil horror-comedy films is Darling .
While Madurai gangster films have now trickled in number, you can’t but wonder if the season of Tamil horror films is also slowly drawing to a close, considering that the jokes, the essence of these films, are starting to seem ever so slightly hackneyed. You now find yourself laughing that much lesser, and being less tolerant of the unsurprising ghost back stories. In fact, so similar are these ghosts (and their back stories) that you may as well have the same ghost in different films with negligible loss of content. Oh, hello there, grotesque female from the beyond! Nice to see you again. Darling , as has been much publicised, is a remake of the 2013 Telugu super hit, Prema Katha Chitram .
Any knowledge of the original story and you know the film doesn’t really bring any revolutionary elements to the horror world. A haunted mansion, a vindictive ghost of a persecuted innocent woman… Can we move on to the jokes please? And make no mistake, the jokes do come.
Karunaas, in particular, is a laugh riot. Bala Saravanan, as the friend of G. V. Prakash (debut performance as Kathir), is also slowly but steadily seeping into public consciousness. He seems a natural with his dialogue delivery and comedy timing.
“ Pachcha mannu da ,” he says quite a few times, and each time, the theatre, as if in cue, breaks into laughter. The really raucous cheering, however, remains reserved for an actor who has made the complete transformation from being a menacing villain ( Naan Kadavul ) to a comedian who leaves you in splits with his mere presence — Rajendran. You may be forgiven for wondering if Tendulkar has broken out of retirement to play one last ODI — such is the palpable excitement. And when he says, “Jai Sadagopan Ramesh”, like it were a legitimate ghost-repelling hymn, you can’t but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
The problem with Darling , however, is that despite the jokes coming thick and fast, the story seems tedious. It’s a mark of how little happens, and how predictable the story is, that even the 2-hour 9-minute duration seems long. You are forced to sit through each character discovering the presence of the ghost, and while the scenes, for the major part, are admittedly funny, you can’t wait to move on. On some level, you also know that a back story of the ghost is waiting.
And even as you break into occasional laughter, you are twiddling your thumbs in impatience, waiting for it. There’s also a lengthy fight sequence at the end and an unsurprising final scene whose purpose you aren’t entirely sure of.