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.