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Movie Review: Kuselan (2008) Back to Movie
Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam
Fans Rating: 76%%76%% 76% (18 votes)
Movie Still Kuselan is an attempt at marrying a down-to-earth story revolving around emotions and Rajni's superhero image. In other words, it tries to offer something to Rajni fans as well as others, something that doesn't usually happen in movies featuring Rajni as the hero. Both those elements have been treated satisfactorily and mixed together well. Unfortunately, quite a few more elements have been thrown into the mix to make the movie a complete commercial package and none of those work. As a result, Kuselan works only in parts.

Balakrishnan(Pasupathy) is a barber in the village of Periyoor. Unable to get a loan to upgrade his equipment, he is losing business by the day to Shanmugam(Vadivelu), his competitor with a modern shop and rather questionable ways of landing business. As a result, Balu is barely able to make ends meet but his wife Sridevi(Meena) and his three children understand his position. The whole village is excited when a movie unit arrives to shoot a film starring the Superstar Ashok Kumar(Rajnikanth) and when news filters out that Balu and Ashok Kumar were friends in school, the villagers' attitude towards Balu undergoes a sea change.

Shorn of the unnecessary frills, the film is about friendship and the changes it brings in the life of a man. Inspite of Vasu's non-subtle filmmaking style, these sections do work well. It is easy to admire Pasupathy for his ideals and principles throughout and so we sympathize with him during his tough times and feel happy for him when he is treated well. His reactions to the people looking to exploit his friendship with Rajni are natural and the results of his actions are logical considering his nature and the situation around Rajni.

As far as Rajni goes, his appearance can be divided into parts - the one where he is a movie star in the movie within the movie and the one where he plays the actor outside of the movie. In the former, he gives his fans what they look for with several costume changes, punch dialogs and a song sequence. Though completely unrealistic (they are shooting two movies in 40 days?!) and hovering loosely without any real drama or emotions tied to them, the sequences work because of Rajni's charisma and screen presence. But it is when focusing on the man behind the actor that the movie delivers something different. The movie pretty much idolizes him and we know he is still acting but the one scene where Sunderrajan questions him is a huge surprise. The questions are shockingly sharp and his answers and emotions, though not completely clear, feel honest. I honestly can't imagine any other actor, even one with a fraction of Rajni's image and fan following, agreeing to have these questions posed to him and answering them without pandering to the fans.

Probably because he thought that the primary track was too sentimental and emotional, Vasu tries to make the rest of the movie a comedy and packs a number of comedians into the film. Vadivelu is the biggest of these and gets the most screentime but he is also the least funny of the lot. He might have a new profession here but his segments feel like rehashes of his previous comedy tracks where he comes up with clever plans that culminate with him in some kind of trouble. The segments themselves are childish and the punchlines to them(like when his assistants bring in a thick-moustached man or when he tries to scale a wall) are obvious miles before, killing the humour. The scene when he comes face-to-face with Rajnikanth is the only one where he makes us laugh. All the others have a few funny lines(Santhanam's description when he first sees Santhanabharathi, Livingston's assistant's first mispronunciation of his name, etc.) but Vadivelu's entire track is devoid of laughs and makes those sections painful.

P.Vasu is one of those directors who is stuck in the past and his movies are painfully old-fashioned. He seems oblivious to the huge advances in moviemaking technology and techniques and sticks to ancient methods. Whether its the comedy, the script, the way he films sequences or the special effects, everything is loud and overt. Even then, the crassness in the film comes as an unpleasant surprise. Vadivelu's scenes with his wife step into vulgarity frequently and a scene where he ogles Nayanthara in her room is particularly distasteful. The awkwardly inserted Chaaral... song sequence too follows the tradition of rain songs and is little more than an excuse to showcase Nayanthara's wet curves. The vulgarity is not new or worse than that in many other films but sticks out here because of the emotional theme, the presence of Rajni and the fact that it is being called a 'clean family film'(there were children-only special shows on the first day!).

As I said earlier, the film works only in parts but fortunately, one of the parts that does work is the climax. Rajni's speech is heartfelt and honest and even the reaction shots, though cinematic, work. It is the kind of speech that makes it easy to believe the responses. The subsequent scene is surprisingly short considering that the whole movie built up to it but it has a strong impact nevertheless.

Pasupathy proves his mettle once again. He conveys his feelings, which range from shyness to lack of confidence about Rajni's reaction to frustration at the inability to meet Rajni, very well and we feel sorry for him as people turn on him. Meena looks a little too well-dressed to make her dire financial situation believable and seems a little artificial in the few scenes she appears in. Om Zaraare... has a Vaaji Vaaji... hangover but the dance steps are simple but good. Cinema Cinema..., prefixed by a line announcing it as a tribute to 75 years of Tamil cinema, feels a bit chaotic as the tribute is packed into just one paragraph and the remainder of the song sings praises of Rajni. 75 years probably deserved a better tribute but Rajni's style and dresses won't have any of his fans complaining. Perinba Pechukkaaran... is rather ordinary but a special kudos to its lyricist for the double entendres that revealed a whole new dimension for the song onscreen.

Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam