I don’t hate much at all, and so, if I were to draw up a list of things I deeply despise, I dare say it wouldn’t be too lengthy. It would surely have wet door handles, and I’d probably include weak handshakes as well. But I realised as I watched Balloon that there’s something else I hate more than these two: the flashback song — especially when the flashback itself is based on an overused idea. For a brief period in the beginning, Balloon exhibits promise. It constantly hints at being something more than your average horror-comedy. It almost seems like a meta narrative, when filmmaker Kutti (Jai) is shown, being coerced by a producer to write a horror film instead of the ‘native’ subject he wants to make as his debut film (the bound script he places on the table bears the title, Aram). It got me wondering if Sinish was subtly hitting out, like the filmmaker in Jigarthanda’s story. But such promises simply turn out to be red herrings.
Cast: Jai, Anjali, Janani Iyer
The clichés then descend on the story like locusts in the Biblical plague. Haunted house, two comic victims, lonely heroine, creepy doll, oversmart child… Sinish, of course, knows these are all clichés, and he brings this to your attention in an interesting scene when Kutti, who’s out to make a horror film about his story, introduces all these elements to his friends. Does being aware of your faults somehow exculpate you from them? Balloon never truly rises out of these clichés, and its flashback of an innocent couple who are murdered by an evil, evil politician is a special low. As for the song in it, it is so low that in the world that this song lives in, ants are thought to be so tall that you can spot their faces only when on an aeroplane.
From the film’s credits ending with a nod in the direction of Yuvan Shankar Raja, it seems that the makers think of his contribution as the USP. Songs aside, is it really a USP that the background score is often scarier than its visuals — and by scary, I mean scary for the well-being of your ears. The horror elements are downright insignificant in this film, and if at all there can be said to be a feature of great strength, it’s comedy by Yogi Babu, who plays one of Kutti’s friends. Some of his one-liners are a riot. He mumbles about having sat on a cylinder, in his urgency to attend nature’s call. He wears a t-shirt whose caption reads, “I’m too sexy for my hair.” When a Church authority solemnly explains that the Father has gone on a travel to Mettupalayam, he asks politely if he’s gone to visit Black Thunder (the amusement park). When a possessed child screams, he runs away scared that she sounds like Singam Suriya. I laughed the loudest when he looks at another Father and points out his likeness to the Undertaker (the wrestler). If we made a Hangover, he’d be perfect for Zach Galifianakis’ character.
But Balloon doesn’t just want to be a horror-comedy and so, doesn’t allot Yogi Babu too much time to showboat. Sinish goes for a crafty end that allows him the excuse of saying, “But hey, Balloon isn’t really my film” (you will get this if you have seen the film). But hey, Sinish, no, we are not falling for it.
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.