A dialogue-heavy average comedy
When I was growing up, audio movies were quite the rage. People hugged their transistors close, as they listened to these movies for what was possibly the tenth time. This was, of course, the same time when audio cassettes of stage plays by artistes like Crazy Mohan and S. Ve. Shekher were much in demand. It helped a lot that those movies — like the stage plays — were dialogue-oriented. The plot points would be spelled out, and any conflict would occur usually in a conversation. So, you could follow the story with little problem. As movies have today become, well, movies, you can’t really hope to make sense with the audio alone — with really good movies, you shouldn’t be able to. Imagine listening to Pisaasu on radio. Thanks to its extended periods of silence, you couldn’t make head or tail from only the audio. It’s an audio-visual experience.
Now, where am I going with all this? Savaale Samaali takes us back to a time when a movie simply meant a bunch of people relentlessly talking to each other. The catch with making such a film is that since the makers have hedged all their bets on the dialogue, the lines have got to be hilarious. Like say, in one of those Kamal-Crazy Mohan collaborations. In Savaale though, it’s hit and miss.
The story is about Karthi (Ashok Selvan, who’s quite at home playing the protagonist) and his friend, Billa (Jagan), trying to bring their employer, Top TV, to… well, the top. The channel is heavily in debt, and can’t even afford to pay its employees. For some reason though, its employees don’t have a problem with that. The film is just gag after gag — a few that are funny — thrown at you until, as is the norm in such films, it all comes together in a big puddle of confused ‘hilarity’ at the end. The jokes include snarky one-liners to grandmas drinking beer to straightforward insults on hairy men. In between, there is a gaana song somewhere (featuring Aishwariyaa) which turns the table on the usual female-bashing, or so it seems for the first part, until the hero steps in to set things right by accusing women for all things gone wrong, and at one point, even asking for them to be killed and to be turned into pickle. Why ‘pickle’? Because the song, naturally, happens at a TASMAC bar. Karthi’s distress, of course, has to do with a girl — his sister’s friend (Bindu Madhavi) — not reciprocating his ‘love’.
The monotonous shots don’t help. You could reduce the whole film to a stage play without really missing much. Such is the insignificant role played by the camera, which is simply content with being a motionless observer for extended periods of time. It makes it quite difficult, particularly when the gags don’t work, and there are quite a few that don’t — like the one in which Karthi recites Vijay’s lines from Poove Unakkaga to express his love. He later learns that the original lines are said after Vijay loses the girl. Karthi’s sister bursts out laughing as if it were hilarious, but she’s the only one laughing.
In between, the film also sneaks in a preachy sentimental bit about the importance of koothu . And there’s a parody of reality shows at the end that culminates in all the knots getting untied, with actors like Manobala, Urvashi and Nasser all stepping up to spice things up. But it all seems overly drawn out. I walked out feeling a tad let down. It was the disappointment of walking in to watch a movie, and getting a somewhat-funny stage play instead.