Indrajith: ‘Indian’ Jones and the lost opportunity

There’s a scene in Indrajith in which director Kalaprabhu pays homage to the Indiana Jones franchise that I imagine inspired him to make this film. Indrajith (Gautham Karthik, whose swift-talking cheerful countenance reminded me a lot of his father, Karthik), and team have just arrived near Arunachal Pradesh and are stocking up on essentials to help them through their adventure in the offing — tools I don’t believe I ever saw them use in their adventure. Indrajith steps out of the store, a fedora on his head, a hammer attached to his belt, and a pistol in his upholster. If you squinted hard enough, you could pretend he’s our very own Indiana Jones, at least in looks. Perhaps we should call him Indian Jones? Indrajith is likely the sort to have been raised on such cinema, given that he casually sings an Elvis Presley number in the privacy of his room. Much like Indiana himself, Indrajith too has his fair share of frightful encounters with snakes in the film. But before we get too carried away with the comparisons, let me state categorically here that they end here. For one, he isn’t an academician. But Kalaprabhu does manage to sneak in the archaeology angle though. The story is about the search for a stone that apparently can rid humanity of disease for 400 years (how they arrived at this figure, we’ll never know). Who can get to it first? Will it be Indrajith’s gang, led by a former government head (Sachin Khedekar) of the Archaeological Survey of India, or will it be the evil group led by the present head (Sudanshu Pandey)?

Director: Kalaprabhu
Cast: Gautham Karthik, Sachin Khedekar, Sudanshu Pandey

It’s not a fair contest given the superpowers the writers have bestowed Indrajith with. He takes his friends to a graveyard on a silly hunch, and while he’s running away from the watchman, he falls exactly near the tombstone he’s been looking for. In another scene, his friends and he are near the brink of death as the aeroplane they are on is crashing down. But all it takes is an inflatable boat for the group to safely land in water, and paddle it away, like on a leisurely boat ride. Later, the rope he’s clinging on to snaps, and he hangs on to the mountain with his fingertips. He falls eventually, and where should he but right outside the entrance of the cave his group has been looking for all along. He’s the master of good fortune. Move away, Indiana Jones. Nobody needs your academic credentials or your courage. Our man will beat you with luck.

Indrajith may be in a film inspired by the best of Hollywood, but his courting style is all from the cesspool of Tamil cinema. Over the course of the film, he’s shown to be into two women. The first one (Sonarika Bhadoria), he spots as he peers through his window into hers. The unwitting girl proceeds to undress, and by now, Indrajith is armed with binoculars. Thankfully, she spots him and storms to his residence. Strangely though, she takes him in her car and stops in a desolate street. Having watched films like Dora, I let out a sadistic grin. Surely, she would go on to smash every bone of this peeping pervert. But her idea of revenge is different. She asks for him to remove his clothes, so she can see him as he saw her. No comment I can add here will justify the resigned annoyance I felt.

Later, he meets another woman (Ashrita Shetty), and this time again, he’s staring without her knowledge, as she’s washing herself by the lakeside. This time, the girl’s shown to enjoy being looked at, and even shown to be disappointed that he’s not looking at her, when he pretends to be engaged in wildlife watching instead. These are women only men can write — more specifically, men who seem to think women will find it complimentary to be spotted through binoculars as they are undressing. It never ceases to astonish me that such tracks still get written and approved.

Indrajith’s VFX isn’t bad at all though. The flight crash, the tiger, some of the stunts… they’re all decent, especially in light of what we have generally been subject to. I must say though that I didn’t quite understand why they had to resort to animation to show a dog doing everyday things, given that they actually had a real dog on the sets. This is one of many questions that, I suppose, will haunt me for life.

For a vast portion of this film, my eyebrows remained raised. As the villains are in pursuit of Indrajith’s car which has a ‘puzzle’ they want, he flings the piece of paper in the direction of the passenger in the back. Inexplicably, it goes flying out of the broken window, straight into the waiting hands of the person who’s in pursuit. It’s almost ridiculous. My eyebrows remained in position, as Indrajith is later shown to be swinging from vine to vine, keeping up with speeding vehicles. And later, when a tribal doctor, who’s apparently grown up watching Tamil cinema, examines the patient and says, “If you’d brought the patient even a little later…” And later, when Indrajith opens the plane’s door, whips out his gun and coolly shoots down missiles that are headed his way. There’s a quote that appears at the end of this film: The ‘truth in the darkness’ is needed than ‘truth’ in the ‘light’. I didn’t quite get the meaning, or the reason for the curiously placed single quotes. I walked out, my eyebrows positioned at an all-time high. I’m still working on bringing them down.

(Oversight: It has been brought to my attention that the protagonist wasn’t in fact shooting down the missiles, but providing them with an alternative heat target so as to distract them. Read  here for more details. My statement that was derisive of this technique stands corrected.)

This review was written for Cinema Express, the cinema division of The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.

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