Nothing new in New Zealand
Of all the places in the world, there is no reason why Serndhu Polama is set in New Zealand. The narrator gives you the ridiculous reason that it’s because New Zealand is the ‘most important’ in the list of countries that Indians migrate to. As the film progresses, you begin to wonder if it’s because the picturesque locales in the background make for great distractions during the many dull scenes. At all times, you’re able to — no, you’re forced to — take your eyes off the lead characters and focus instead on, say, a pristine river in the background.
Ostensibly because the story is set in New Zealand, most names are Christian — Thomas, Sherin, Tony, we even have a Christina. The hero’s name, Abhishek (Vinay), of course, isn’t, as he’s shown to be merely visiting the country every year on vacation. You can make the conjecture that the writers felt a Hindu name would be easier to relate to. Abhi, as he is called, is a fashion photographer who looks dishevelled at all times. This is in stark contrast to the heroine, Sherin (Madhuurima), who looks heavily made-up — fake eyelashes, lipstick and all. It doesn’t matter that she’s been on the road for days, that she’s being kidnapped by thugs… even when she’s raging against a man responsible for murder towards the end, she looks straight out of a beauty salon. It’s hard to take the emotional turmoil of a character seriously, when the said character hasn’t lost the time and motivation to look her best.
Serndhu Polama is among the least thrilling thrillers, the least mysterious whodunits. The main subject is always swept under the rug by mirthless comedy and commonplace romantic scenes. The filmmaker’s idea of an intriguing beginning to a romance is to have the woman ask a man to help her zip her dress up. That’s the kind of writing we’re talking about here. Meanwhile, Sherin, Abhi’s best friend, is a stereotypical Tamil heroine — from scene one, she seems hopped up on a sugar high. She’s gambolling, and grinning from ear to ear for no apparent reason. Just after Abhi gets dumped by his girlfriend, she’s shown merrily laughing. Serndhu Polama could have been an intriguing mystery drama if it had competent writing — something like Mystic River , which is also about childhood friends getting estranged due to a tragic incident. But that’s too much to expect from a film whose big twist at the end is also its best joke, comfortably beating all the abysmal attempts at humour by Thambi Ramaiah. He has an extended humour track that has him cheating on his wife several times — one section ends with him being caught by the cuckolded husband, in the second he is part of a porn film, and the third — oh, the outrage this would create if it were a big film — has him at the receiving end of a lady who’s into bondage! I won’t spoil the end for you, but suffice it to say that while the ‘tense’ climax was playing out, the staff at a popular theatre here found it necessary to separate a couple getting cosy in the corner seats.