A comedy that isn’t funny


Nanbenda reeks of a certain uninspired quality — evident right at the beginning in the lacklustre background score that accompanies the title credits designed in an equally lacklustre fashion. You know it’s too early to come to conclusions, but the warning bells are already ringing. You hope that the film will get better as it goes on. However, the story — if I can take the liberty of calling it that — runs home the futility of this hope, again and again and again.

If you have seen the trailer, you can guess the film. Here are a few easy guesses to make: the hero, Sathya (Udhayanidhi Stalin), will fall in love with the heroine, Ramya (Nayantara), at first sight; Santhanam’s wisecracks will try to keep the film afloat (if not he, who else?); he, of course, will play the hero’s friend (in this film, as Sivakozhundhu); there will be about five songs of which a couple will be duets and one about lost love. The problem with Nanbenda is not that it dutifully follows this template, but that its individual items are nowhere near as entertaining as they should be to make you forget its unimaginative story and screenplay.

In a way, this type of film is on shaky ground from the start, as its success largely depends on Santhanam’s comedy. Films such as Boss Engira Bhaskaran , Oru Kal Oru Kannadi , and Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru , have all cashed in on this template; Nanbenda bites into the same apple but finds it’s all already eaten. This excessive reliance on an extended solo comedy track is the cinematic equivalent of the 90s Indian cricket team hoping that one man, Sachin, would somehow make up for the team’s overall deficiencies. And when Santhanam falters, like Sachin occasionally did, the substandard quality of the rest of the team becomes painfully obvious, gaping like an unhealed ugly gash after a band-aid accidentally rips open.

You can see that Udhayanidhi looks a lot more comfortable in this film than in OKOK . He dances better and seems more comfortable in scenes where he doesn’t have much to say. But he isn’t the problem; his character is. Sathya seems like a sexist pervert. He wants to act in a play only to do a few scenes that have him making out ( gilma , as he says) with a woman, any woman. When he sees a speeding car about to splash stagnant water on schoolchildren, he runs — not to save them, but a group of women walking behind them. He also expresses much angst when he notices Ramya standing outside a TASMAC wine shop. In his words, “ Serial-a paathomaanu illaama, aambalai-ku equal-a kudikkardhaa ?” (Instead of watching a TV soap, why’re you trying to drink liquor, like a man?) Not the most likeable man around.

Also, in such a film where there’s no question of a dark ending, what’s the point of a lengthy will-he-won’t-he sequence towards the end? He will; of course, he will. In these films, he always does. Give me the darned jokes I paid money for. That’s the main problem with Nanbenda — they never come.

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