Peechaankai: A pointedly mediocre comedy

There are two types of people: those who laugh when a character’s genitalia gets hurt, and those who don’t. I’m likely of the latter kind, considering how I didn’t find a whole lot to laugh at every time the protagonist of Peechaankai either grabs another character’s, hmm, wing wang in a fight scene, or somehow manages to make sure that his opponent gets a pointed stick wedged in his posterior. A lot of the humour is along such slapstick variety, and perhaps it needed comedians of a greater pedigree. Oh, and it also doesn’t help that the film liberally dips into that abomination of a comedy genre championed by, if not invented by, Tamil cinema: the ‘misheard’ genre. This is where a character says something loudly and lucidly, and yet, the other character hears a sexually charged word instead. A character says, “Bro”, and another hears, “Bra”. He says, “Android”, and the other hears, “undraayar”. And in one particularly sombre moment, he says, “Selfie”, and the other asks, “What? Selvi?” Some part of my brain—I suspect the one responsible for humour—began hurting.

Director: Ashok
Cast: RS Karthik, Anjali Rao, MS Bhaskar

Oh, and while on brains, the chief conceit of the film is quite fascinating, even if it takes sometime to kick in. S Muthu (the rather likeable RS Karthik)—called Smoothu (so they can attempt a ‘misheard’ genre joke on his name)—gets afflicted by a condition called alien hand syndrome, which causes one’s limbs to act on their own. For the purposes of our film, it turns into his moral compass. It won’t let him steal. It donates money. It protects him. The best portion of the film is the title track that shows montages of Smoothu struggling to live with his condition. And much of the film needed to be about this, but alas, there are rival politicians, gangsters, a kidnapping angle, and of course, the quintessential bad love angle, which has the heroine (Anjali Rao) changing her mind about Smoothu approximately 2.5 seconds after rejecting his romantic advances (“I am love you”).

Like a bad stand-up comedy show, it’s not all bad. There are a couple of slapstick sequences that work. I liked the dig at policemen in Tamil cinema, when an inspector, who’s chasing Smoothu, shouts, “Nillu”, and a constable quips, “Sir, avan nikka maataan. Namma dhaan pidikkanum.” But such moments are rare in a film full of jokes you are generally indifferent to. The main baddie asks his henchmen, “Why does that politician always keep his mobile in his shirt pocket?” and goes on to answer, “Because he’s a politician and they don’t wear pants.” I was so far away from laughing that I almost sobbed a bit.

It’s a pity because the film seems to have decent actors, catchy, even if loud on occasion, music, and good production values, but ultimately, not enough is done with the central idea. For the dark comedy it tries to be, too many jokes fall by the wayside. Unless of course, you’re the sort who finds it funny when the villain has two pointed sticks piercing his posterior.

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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