Samuthirakani films are usually loud and make little sense. So, when you walk into a theatre playing Nadodigal 2 in Dolby Atmos, you know you’ve subscribed to a customised edition of Apple AirPods, pre-programmed with Samuthirakani’s woke politics that invades your mindspace even after crawling out of the theatre. Nadodigal 2 is not a movie, but a culmination of newsreels that has very little movie in it.
Jeeva (Sasikumar) is a firebrand activist who is consumed by his communist principles. For him, people’s welfare comes before anything. In short, he is a cardboard character who just exists mouthing painfully-boring dialogues that are woke and puke at the same time. He has his own A-Team consisting of Pandi (Barani), Sengodi (Anjali, in a refreshingly un-Samuthirakani character) and a senior communist member, who, admittedly, gets the best lines.
With his Poraali Army, Jeeva leads an anti-establishment protest, gathering youngsters — if you’re thinking of jallikattu protests, you are not alone. The Samuthirakani movie suddenly turns into a Pa Ranjith movie at the rally. Youngsters gather in large numbers. Rappers rock the stage with political songs. You expect sparks to fly, but it becomes a Sunburn Festival with Justin Prabhakaran’s thumping beats (I really liked the songs too, though there’s a serious Dear Comrade hangover). It’s a terrific construct that is usually written for a climatic sequence. Whatever has been built so far gets collapsed like a human pyramid, when police forces disrupt the peaceful protest — if you’re thinking of Thoothukudi incident, you are not alone. Since it’s a Samuthirakani movie, the chaos doesn’t end there. When things go out of control, Jeeva screams “annan Ambedkar”, “maaveerar Bhagat Singh”, “karmaveerar Kamaraj”… you get the drift, right? Their vigour is reinstated and they form a human chain to defend themselves. Again, it’s a set-up that might want to become that gorgeous climax bit of Kaala, but it looks preposterous on screen.
- Cast: M Sasikumar, Anjali, Barani, Athulya Ravi and Sriranjani
- Director: Samuthirakani
- Storyline: Set in Dindigul, a motley group of activists takes on casteism, honour killing, corporate and everything that is wrong in society
There has never been a more disjointed Samuthirakani movie in recent times. What Nadodigal 2 starts out to achieve and what it achieves in the end are two different tales. For example, a transgender character (who looks gorgeous), who is part of the Poraali gang, gets appointed as sub-inspector of police — if you reminded of a real-life incident, you are not alone. She gets a backstory of how miserably she was treated by her parents and the scene ends with her reuniting with them. Okay. Good intention. Very good message. But what relevance does it have on the overall design? However, I was glad that she wasn’t killed or raped — although she gets molested at the rally — making her the emotional core of the movie, like how Atlee would do.
But Nadodigal 2 isn’t just about transgender rights, gender politics, feminisim and Greta Thunberg… You cannot escape that easily, if it’s a Samuthirakani directorial. It bears no similarities with the 2009 movie (which was a far better outing that got its emotional beats right) but shares its emotional spirit. Here too, a couple elopes to get married with the blessings of Sasikumar. The movie wants to be anti-caste, establishing horrific details involved in honour killing — if you reminded…never mind. Note how the boy’s name and caste have been muted. Samuthirakani recreates the Sankar-Kousalya honour killing incident that happened in Tiruppur in 2016, with the least bit of sympathy or empathy with a Speed-styled climax. Making a anti-caste movie is one thing but milking a real-life incident to the point where blood shows up is another.
Some of the warm moments in Nadodigal 2 really worked for me. For instance, I liked the emotional dynamics between Jeeva and Sengodi. When was the last time we had a mainstream hero and heroine shared a relationship that’s typically not boyfriend-girlfriend or husband-wife? I knew Jeeva and Sengodi would fall in love eventually — heck, it’s Tamil cinema after all. But, for a brief while, it gave us a hope that they’re ‘thozhargal’ — maybe in another movie. Nadodigal 2 is replete with two-syllable words — velvom, jaipom, vazhvom and saavom. The word I’m looking for is hope. Or, in Samuthirakani’s parlance, nambuvom.