Brindavanam: A warm, fuzzy drama that works for the most part

You’ve got to love the cozy atmosphere Radha Mohan creates in his films. And he does this fascinatingly through the prism of some traumatised lives—for the most part at least. His films are to relationships what Tarantino’s are to bloodshed. He treats them as a muse, and with great tenderness. Like Mozhi, this film too is about a menagerie of people across religion, caste and occupation, who live together as one happy unit. It’s for that reason that the film is titled Brindavanam, which translates to ‘a garden of happiness’. There’s an almost saccharine air of optimism that pervades the film’s world; think of the director as the anti-Bala.

There are quite a few people with issues, but on first examination of their joyous countenance, you wouldn’t know. The protagonist, Kannan (in a movie called Brindavanam, is it any surprise the hero’s named after Krishna?), is radiating joy at the outset, but he’s dealing with insecurities. Another main character, Vivekh (Vivekh, who’s playing himself), seems like a pretty happy, successful actor, but is coming to grips with the tragedy of a friend. And then, there’s MS Bhaskar, who plays the guitar and sings songs at sunset, but who’s still haunted by the loss of his child. What if you brought them all together under the veil of a happy neighbourhood?

The central conceit—of Vivekh playing himself—plays beautifully for large portions. The interactions between the celebrity comedian and the awestruck fan, Kannan (Arulnithi), are delicately woven. The film itself plays as an ode to the comedian, and references many of his top comedy tracks, including the ‘commissioner’ joke in Minnale, the ‘haemorrhoids’ joke in Pennin Manadhai Thottu, and the famous ‘Epdi irundha naan’ joke.

He also adds to his rich highlights section with a couple in Brindavanam. The joke about Avatar, for instance, that’s already been made popular by the trailer. I liked another better. When Kannan puts his arm around Vivek to show off to his girlfriend, the latter, in his inimitable style, remarks, “Pesardhukku phone kuduthaa, aadardhukku Candy Crush kekkara”. Such lines, you don’t get too many of these days. Vivekh himself makes a rather self-conceited reference to this when he cheekily notes that in his absence, comedians like Soori, Yogi Babu and ‘Mottai’ Rajendran have all come up.

Like with other Radha Mohan films, much of the film’s development hinges on the carefully constructed dialogues, and a lot of great jokes that would be great as ice-breakers. Perhaps in a less innocent film, you’d even take offence at a couple of them. When Sandhya (a thoroughly effervescent Tanya Ravichandran) is asked why she refused an arranged marriage, she says that the guy was so fat that his photo took two days to download. In another scene, a joke is made about how women and children are rescued first in a disaster, so the men can think in peace. But as Brindavanam shows, when offensive jokes work, they don’t seem offensive.

While the film works on account of the largely funny jokes and the warmth of the dialogues, the final stretches go on and on, and even the jokes fail to work. Vivek quips, “Vaazhkai is like vazhakkai. Neraa vettina bajji, side-la vettina chips.” Another character says, “En manasu ippo pal set kayattina paati madhri, sandhoshamaa irukku.” But by that time, your patience is being tested, and you want it all to just end soon, before you’re tempted to use one of the Vivekh jokes the film makes a reference to: “Aale illadha kadaila yaarku tea aathringa.”

This review was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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