Tamizh Padam 2: A brave, even if not all that effective, comedy

When it works, the comedy in Tamizh Padam 2 really explodes. Much like in the first film that released eight years ago, my favourite bits are when Tamizh Padam 2 uses exaggeration effectively to mock stale habits in Tamil cinema, including sexism, lazy character development, and underwritten villains. Like that opening sequence when Shiva rambles on and on before the bickering parties lay down arms, if only so they can get relief from his dull, incoherent monologue. It’s funny partly because it invokes images of all those times our heroes, in films, indulged in self-righteous unrealistic speeches to the surprisingly rapt attention of their followers, or as CS Amudhan would point out, ‘junior artistes’. Later in the film, Shiva is shown to be training to return to his role as a cop, and this is done through a montage of him working out. Apart from the evident Vivegam inspiration, the scene here is also a takedown of such cursory, unrealistic transformation scenes over the years. Mind you, it isn’t just simply the recreation of the scene itself– most of the audience seemed quite happy with just this — but what they do with it.
Tamizh Padam 2
Director: CS Amudhan
Cast: Shiva, Manobala, Disha Pandey
As I said, when it works, it’s explosive. But it doesn’t nearly work as often as it should. For vast stretches, Tamizh Padam 2 settles for merely invoking pop culture references than being too clever with it. So if you’re quite happy to play spot-the-film, there’s no shortage of material, and you’ll find yourself quite occupied and amused  even. VTV, Anniyan, VIP, Mersal, Sivaji, Enthiran, Kabali…  It’s all there. But once the novelty of the reference-spotting wears off, you’ll find that there just aren’t as many jokes as you’d expect in a film as long.

But make no mistake though. This is a necessary film. Its willingness to let nobody off the hook is truly refreshing. Not even Modi is immune. One character actually responds in shock to this brazenness, and says, “Idhu romba over da.” The film makes jokes about some pretty big names in the film industry too, and in times like these, the importance of a film like this getting made and being allowed as wide a release, cannot be understated.

In a film like this, the story was always going to be fairly perfunctory. Given that the emphasis is on the small gags that populate this film, you get that the story here is simply meant to be a loose thread that runs through every attempted joke. From time to time though, especially during the barren stretches of the second half, this lack of story strength becomes particularly conspicuous. At one point, you move from an Irudhi Suttru gag — which in repetition doesn’t work at all — to some rescue scene seemingly inspired by Speed. Before you know it, there’s an item song, and I remember thinking how convenient it is for the makers that they could simply call it a dig at the item-number-ritual in our cinema. Perhaps they should have reversed the roles, and had maybe a man perform the song — like they do with the breakup song rather effectively. But as it exists, the Kasturi song is a letdown, and becomes the very fault it’s supposed to be taking a dig at.

This sequel doesn’t just rely on Tamil cinema material. Hollywood is a substantial provider too. Apart from Speed, there’s Terminator, Forrest Gump… During one stretch, the heroine dresses up as Daenerys from Game of Thrones. Someone else is dressed up as Tyrion in the scene, while actors Shiva and Satish, wearing the garb of ancient sages, face off in a dance battle. Somewhere, from being a farcical comedy that takes clever, calculated digs, Tamizh Padam 2 almost turns into a Halloween party. The mere transformation of our actors for likeness, is thought to be enough… but isn’t. Take the spoof of the Vedalam fight scene for instance. There’s a small, funny dig at why the thugs don’t really shoot at Shiva’s exposed legs, but that’s too small a payoff for the elaborate recreation of the scene. Shiva who, at one point in the film, takes digs at his acting ability — or the lack of it — tries to do the famous Ajith transformation scene. That’s truly when you realise that from being Lollu Sabha, TP2 had turned into an elaborately staged Konjam Nadinga Boss.

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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