Santhanam plays to his strengths
One scene in Inimey Ippadithan makes it amply clear, if it isn’t already, that Santhanam isn’t just a comedian anymore; that he has his eyes set on becoming a proper commercial hero.
When Maha (Ashna Zaveri), a girl he has been chasing — most times, literally — tries to get Cheenu (Santhanam) to fight a few thugs, he takes a few tentative steps towards them and turns around. “You’ve got the order wrong,” he says. “You must love me first. Then, we get a duet. And it is only after that that I protect you from the bad guys.”
Santhanam knows the formula only all too well. He has seen it from close quarters, having played a comedian — no, second hero — to actors like Arya, Udhayanidhi and Jiiva in quite a few commercial films. Inimey Ippadithan ’s story, for the most part, is the expected. Cheenu doesn’t want an arranged marriage because his friend (VTV Ganesh) tells him that it is an arrangement that sees the ugly guy getting the beautiful girl and vice versa. His wife, a decent-looking lady, is shown as proof of this. This scene is cue to an incoming barrage of blasé scenes that have him trying to woo Maha, who he meets when she slaps him in a case of mistaken identity. Santhanam is, after all, turning hero, remember? He also makes a list of his expectations of his future girlfriend like S. Ve. Shekher in Manal Kayiru (1982): for example, she has to look good both in selfies and in group pictures. He then chases her, pesters her, and becomes the shadow she can’t get rid of (he even somehow figures that her favourite number is 18). And if you’ve watched enough Tamil films, you know how she’s going to respond in due time. As Vairamuthu disturbingly says in Jodi , “ Erumbu oora, kallum theyum. Nee erumbaai iru .”
But. He has the advantage that most of our loverboy heroes don’t — incredible comic timing. With all the jokes raining on you, you almost wonder if Inimey was meant as a subversion of the stale-old-love-formula that we’ve been subject to for years. It helps that the jokes aren’t curtailed by the presence of a leading hero with image issues. Santhanam’s also joining hands with Murugan and Anand, the writers of Lollu Sabha , the TV show that first made him famous, and so, there are plenty of typical Lollu Sabha jokes that are delightfully rooted in the Tamil language. Thambi Ramaiah (yes, he’s there in this film too) telephones a man, only for his daughter to answer. “ Appa kulikkaraaru. Neenga ?” He sincerely says, “ Naan kulichiten ma .” Try writing that joke in English.
The story isn’t great, but who cares when there are as many laugh-out-loud moments as they are in Inimey . When Cheenu’s father curses him that his lifestyle will result in him remaining unmarried forever and becoming a saamiyaar , he casually walks away, but not before retorting, “They get the most women, you know.” There are jokes even in the background that are shown in blink-and-miss moments. VTV Ganesh plays a ladies tailor. In a passing scene, you notice in the background that his shop is named ‘Ravikkai Chandran’, a play on the name of a popular cinematographer.
Of course, when there are as many jokes, there are also bound to be discomfiting ones. In trademark Santhanam style, there are joke-insults littered all over the film, directed at people he finds dark, fat, unattractive, bald… you get the idea. But in one of the more surprising final acts I’ve seen this year, Inimey quite redeems itself. Oh, the irony of the ending.
As in a typical masala film, there’s also a song for every situation. A love song, a breakup song, a fast-paced song towards the end… But the catchiness of Santosh Dayanidhi’s songs go a long way in mollifying the pain of their placement.
At the end though, Inimey left me feeling good, mainly because Santhanam remembers that he is more thamaasu than maasu.