Bhaskar Oru Rascal: Arvind Swami and the jokes almost make this remake work

I’ll remember Bhaskar Oru Rascal (the remake of the Malayalam film, Bhaskar the Rascal) mainly for Arvind Swami straying away successfully from all the sophistication that’s come to be seen as an attraction in successful films like Thani Oruvan and Bogan. In Bhaskar Oru Rascal too, there’s a scene that’s got him strutting about in a cool suit, but for a change, he hardly seems to belong in it. After all, Bhaskar’s a man who’s more at ease wearing a shirt and dhoti. His son, Akash, looks at him in a suit and asks, “Ungalukku edhukku idhelaam?” Arvind Swami totally sells the brutishness of Bhaskar, and his lack of manners — which makes for a recurring joke. The film’s strength is the largely innocent brand of humour it peddles, and you realise this never more than in the final act when the jokes all but disappear, and the film turns tedious.

The jokes aren’t a surprise. You expect that from filmmaker Siddique, whose Friends lives on in the annals of Tamil cinema for its now-legendary humour. Bhaskar Oru Rascal, in that sense, marks a return to an age when laughter tracks featuring multiple comedians were the norm. Verbal humour has all but disappeared today, and so, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic in scenes that feature all the three comedians (Soori, Robo Shankar, and Ramesh Khanna) together. The clever lines aren’t just restricted to them, of course. In one scene, Nasser, who plays Bhaskar’s dad, makes a comment about his son’s tendency to pick fights: “Kanakku odhaikkala, ungappan odhaichirukaan.” Good luck translating that joke in English. In another scene, Bhaskar, upon noticing his son saving some chocolate in the refrigerator, says, “Suda suda saapidanum. Fridge la vechaa aari poidum.” It’s all silly, endearing… and funny.

Bhaskar Oru Rascal
Cast: Arvind Swami, Amala Paul, Baby Nainika, Mastar Raghavan, Soori, Siddique, Robo Shankar

For a while, I enjoyed that the film doesn’t make a meal out of the relationship between two widowers, Bhaskar and Anu (Amala Paul). The backstories, however, do quite a bit to ruin that. While Bhaskar’s serves to romanticise a woman’s problematic choice, Anu’s takes a traditional route that makes her decision to be with Bhaskar seem less ‘amoral’. There’s an evil family, an assassin, a drawn-out climax fight with people getting stabbed… These doesn’t fit into a story whose simplicity, for the longest time, is its most enjoyable facet.

Oh, and there’s a bigger problem in Bhaskar Oru Rascal. It’s the same issue as in Dora: The villification of Hindi-speaking people, and their portrayal as the ‘others’. The villain’s named Sanjay Sharma. He’s from Kolkata, and is a nasty piece of work – much like his entire family. When Anu’s in Kolkata and surrounded apparently by evil people, the only source of help she gets is from a Tamilian because, you know, only a Tamilian helps another. Later, there is an extended joke aimed at the non-Tamil identity of a bunch of musicians. Towards the end, Bhaskar, glowering at the villain, says, “Yen oorukku vandhu yen melaye kai vekkariya?” The film’s not subtle about its bias towards natives, and its negative depiction of the ‘others’. It’s a big reason why I walked out with a bad aftertaste. Well, that, and an ill-fitting final act.

This column 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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