Sorry, yesterday kind of got away from me, so only one post. I’m so ashamed! But at least I woke up super early and I am knocking out the review I missed posting yesterday. It’s a fun movie to talk about, a lovely way to start the day!
This movie is directed by Vikram Kumar, same guy who did Manam. And also Ishq, which I haven’t seen, but I feel like has been recommended to me by someone here? Anyway, I think he might be one of those directors who has a distinctive “flavor” to his films, because this movie really really felt similar to Manam, despite having a completely different cast, look, and slightly different plot.
I say slightly different because Manam was about family and reincarnation, with no villains or conflict. Whereas this film is about science fiction and time travel and defeating villains. But ultimately, both of them are about how all the “magic” in the world is less powerful than love, love is the real destiny.
Oh, and also about cute guys. My first Suriya movie! He is kind of cute. And charming. And also a good actor, he plays 3 roles! But mostly I was impressed with him agreeing to be in this film where the script is the star, not him.
You would think this is a Suriya-Suriya-Suriya movie, considering he is onscreen every single second, and often playing scenes just off himself. But when I finished it, I wasn’t thinking “wow! Suriya is the biggest star ever and the coolest person in the world!”, instead I was thinking about the complexity of how it all fit together, and the sweetness of the love story, and a little bit about how good the songs are. Heck, I was even thinking about the other actors! Suriya isn’t the only one who gets an interesting character to play, Samantha Prabhu has a semi-interesting character, Nithya Menon does too, and most of all Saranya Ponvannan, who is amazing! A mother character like I’ve never really seen before. Oh, and Saranya’s first role was playing the heroine in Nayakan. So I shouldn’t be surprised at how good she was in this. All of these people nibble away at the side of the film, taking the platform out from under Suriya.
A tiny tiny bit of research shows that the original star and production team walked out. Possibly because they were alarmed at not having a fully finished and refined script at the same time sets were already being built. Or possibly because the constantly re-written script was getting farther and farther away from being a straight-up star vehicle.
I’ve mentioned before that there seem to be two ways that star vehicles work, either the actor is desperately trying to charm the audience (think Shahrukh in Baazigar) or they are assuming the audience already loves them and they are just basking in that love (think Rajnikanth in Baasha). But there is a third option, when the star puts the whole “stardom” thing aside, and instead is just being a really really multi-talented actor. Think Shahrukh in Chak De, Aamir in everything since 2001, Salman in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Or Suriya in this, playing 3 separate roles, some of which aren’t even attractive. One of those roles relies on him being charming and attractive and all of that, so he plays it that way. But it doesn’t feel like he is trying to overwhelm the script and his co-stars with his charm. He is letting them have their moments, and making sure that the film as a whole is the Star, not just him.
Speaking of the film as a whole, you ready for the very very very complicated plot?
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
I love this plot because, if you get rid of all the flirtation and fancy fight scenes and that stuff, it is just a fairy tale. People are good because they are good and bad because they are bad. And good always wins and bad loses. We never even get a real motivation for our villain, he’s just bad literally because he is the bad twin, and the other twin is good because he is the good twin.
That’s the opening, being thrown into this sibling dynamic. Well, the real opening is being thrown into Nithya and Suriya’s happy household. We see Suriya’s lab, and the baby’s fancy high tech crib, and Nithya spilling acid on the floor of the lab.
And then evil-Suriya (with a beard!) breaks into the household and disrupts it, and we get to see the crib and spilled acid and the lab in a new light as part of this fight scene and tools to escape. And we also see Suriya and Nithya in a new way, as not just a happy simple couple, but as victims and heroes trying to escape from evil Suriya, who wants to steal good Suriya’s new super invention. It’s a time travel movie, so the whole thing is about seeing the same thing over and over again, but slightly different. And the opening sequence eases us into that, not with time travel, but just by showing the same space and causes and effects multiple times.
Oh right, I’m supposed to be spoiling the actual plot. Evil Suriya breaks in and kills Nithya, trying to get good Suriya to give him his invention. Good Suriya has hidden it in the baby’s high tech snail shell style crib. He grabs the crib (thank goodness it closes all the way, so they don’t have to use a real baby in the action scene! Just this shell shaped box thing that we can pretend has a baby inside it), and takes a secret tunnel out of the house. Evil Suriya chases him through the forest, finally Good Suriya jumps onto a passing train, injured, and Evil Suriya follows. Evil Suriya tracks him to the final train car and threatens him with a gun. Good Suriya bravely gives up and takes the gun in his mouth and lets himself be shot. By the way, Suriya-the-actor plays this scene really well. He has a kind of disturbing madness in his eyes and is sort of disturbing in how he opens his mouth for the gun, you get an actual sense of someone who has just seen his wife be killed in front of him and now doesn’t even want to live any more.
Oh, and then Evil Suriya is about to take the crib and baby when he hears it start to countdown and jumps off the train instead, thinking it is a bomb. Only, the audience sees that it isn’t a bomb, it’s just a recording of good Suriya counting down from 10 to teach his son to count backwards. And also on the train, we hear a baby crying, and then get the reveal of a woman sitting in one of the cars, holding the baby and smiling down at it, along with the box holding the invention that bad Suriya was chasing down.
Fast forward several years!!!! Okay, this bit is a little boring. Interesting in the moment because we are super curious about what happened to the baby and the invention and all that, but looking back on it, there’s not a lot there besides exposition. The baby has grown up to be yet another Suriya. He is a watch mechanic who lives with his mother in the city. The box is still around the shop, but no one can open it, and in fact they use it to prop up a chair, or break open jars, because it is so strong. Until one day the local junkman happens to bring along a load of old metal which includes the key to the box (taken by Evil Suriya, and then thrown out after his accident and slowly making it’s way to this junkman). The key sticks to the show of Suriya’s mother, she takes it home, and finally key and box are reunited and Suriya opens it.
Most of this movie is science fiction type “magic”, but like I said, “love” is the real magic. The watch in the box is magical, but even more magical is that the key found its way to Suriya just when he needed it to open the box, that the watch inside the box immediately bonded with him, and that he was a watchmaker in the first place! Following his father’s destiny without even realizing it.
And because of this kind of “magic”, Suriya also immediately figures out how the watch works and easily starts using it. He also doesn’t really have that “whoa! This changes everything, I have to fix all the huge wrongs of history!” reaction that I would have if I had gotten a time travel watch. Which is another thing that reminded me so much of Manam. In both films, these huge kind of world changing events (reincarnation and remembering past lives, time travel) are just sort of accepted by the characters and the plot moves on. And the world changing events are only considered or used in relationship to small personal matters.
Which I am fine with! I can relate to a science fiction story that’s all about courting the woman you love and saving your parents’ lives much more easily than some super complicated thing about saving the world from a future plague or whatever. And I love it that these films don’t even acknowledge that there might be a bigger part of the story, because really, what is bigger than love? Why should Suriya try to use his watch for anything more than helping his mother and courting his true love?
It’s also a nice way of getting the audience used to the functions of the watch in a kind of slower lower pressure way, so we can follow everything in the rapid fight scenes that follow later. Samantha comes to the watch shop and Suriya rewinds time 5 minutes to keep playing the interaction better. And when she returns to pick up her watch, he pauses time so he can poke a hole in her tire and then offer her a ride. And later, in order to make her happy, he pauses time again, to help the Indian (or local IPL? Not sure) Cricket team win (Dhoni cameo!!!!). So by the time the action scenes start later, we know that the watch can go back to any point in time in the past 24 hours, bringing the wearer back to their body at that time, but with new memories. And it can pause time, but only for 30 seconds.
Also, okay, it’s a little tricky how Suriya is using all of this to get Samantha. He breaks her scooter just so he can spend more time with her, spills ink on her new sari so she will wear the one his mother picked out, and finally tells her that if she is in love with him, she will start seeing him everywhere, and then uses the time pause feature to make that happen. But there is a fine line that makes it okay for me.
Firstly, the script gives some clues that even without the unfair advantage of his magic watch, he still would have won over Samantha. Not because she is reacting to his advances, although there is that too, but because he isn’t just using the watch to woo her. She comes to his watch repair place to get the watch her grandfather gave her fixed. And while he is fixing it, he overhears a phone call where she apologizes for forgetting her grandfather’s birthday. So he goes ahead and not only fixes her watch, but ads a day and time feature to it. That’s so sweet! That’s the kind of thoughtful thing that would make a lady fall in love with him even without any magic powers.
Even the things he does with the watch powers are more sweet and thoughtful than tricky. He ruins her sari not because he wants a chance to see her naked or anything gross like that, but because he wants to give her the sari his mother just bought for her “daughter-in-law”, and to have an excuse to introduce her to his mother. Later, he freezes time while they are on the bike together not to have longer with her arms around him, but so he can put on the bindi she forgot and drape flowers in her hair. He just wants to use his powers, whether they are his real powers of watch fixing or his magic powers of time changing, to be considerate and make her life better.
Okay, there’s also the tricking her part of it. That bothered me slightly, but then it was all fixed in the end because she figured it out. Not necessarily everything about how he did it, but that he was tricking her, and using double talk to make her think she was in love and pursuing him instead of the other way around. And her reaction was to hit him, and then laugh and admit she was in love any way. Which means all that trickery was just him being naughty and didn’t really change anything. Again, they would have been in love anyway.
As is usual in these films, the love story goes on for a bit, and then the hero learns something important and suddenly forgets about the heroine for like an hour, until she pops up again. But what is a little unusual is that it isn’t a big action scene or revenge or anything like that which makes him forget her. It’s that another relationship needs his attention, a relationship which had prior claim to him and which needs him more.
Maybe my favorite part of this film is how they handle the relationship between Saranya and Suriya. It could so easily have been just comedy, or too sappy and magical. But instead they found the perfect line between the two. She is his mother entirely, not just a funny placeholder for his “real” parents, or some angelic too perfect mother. She yells at him to fix the fuse box and worries about getting him married off. But she also walked out of her family home for him and sacrificed everything for the bond she felt immediately with this baby. And the film doesn’t throw that away, there is a wonderful moment when Suriya says that he feels the need to learn about his other parents, but she will still always be his mother.
Oh, and it also ties everything together in a really clever way. Our introduction to Samantha was her saying good bye at the village train station to her whole family, all of whom are mute. Only the station manager explains they aren’t really mute, they have just just taken a vow as a family not to speak between 6am and 6pm every Friday, as atonement for speaking too rashly years earlier and banishing a much-missed family member. Seemingly unrelated, Suriya later tells Samantha that she has the same name as his mother.
Only now that Suriya has learned his mother was thrown out of her family home when she showed up on their doorstep with a baby, he insists on bringing her back to reunite with her family, and it’s Samantha’s family! Saranya was the relative they banished who they have been missing all these years, and Samantha was named in her honor!
It’s a cool twist, but beyond the twist part of it, I also really like how the whole “showing up on our doorstep with a baby” is handled. At least in the subtitles, the wording is very careful to avoid any “they threw me out because they thought it was my illegitimate child, but now they know that it is just a baby I was handed on a train, they are fine with it!” kind of explanations. The initial argument was not over whether or not she had an illegitimate baby, it was that they wanted her to give away the baby (where ever it came from) as otherwise the engagement they had arranged for her would be broken. And she wanted to keep the baby (where ever it came from), because she already felt like the baby’s mother. And the reunion isn’t about that either, Suriya is her son and she left the family because she wouldn’t abandon him, and they regret forcing her to make this choice, and that is all there is to it. Suriya is welcomed as the grandson of the household, and the son of his mother, and no one thinks to ask about anything else, because that’s all that really matters.
And the really very ludicrous twist ending let’s that relationship stay in place. This is where the “most important thing is love” comes into play. The whole ultimate purpose of the time travel plot device is not to let Suriya save his parents, it’s to let Suriya keep all 3 of his parents, his mother Saranya and his mother Nithya and his father Good Suriya. And keep his new relationship with Samantha as well.
While Suriya is happily living with his maternal family and flirting with Samantha who has now figured out his tricks and they are essentially engaged (remember, they now know they are cousins, which means they are supposed to get married anyway), suddenly Evil Suriya shows up. Only Evil Suriya is in disguise as Good Suriya, pretending that he survived and has been living in hiding for decades. It’s fun to see Suriya-the-actor playing Evil Suriya-pretending-to-be-Good Suriya, although it doesn’t really make sense if you think about it too much. Because why does Evil Suriya have to pretend at all? Suriya-the-son never met Good Suriya, he doesn’t know his mannerisms or speech patterns or anything, Evil Suriya could have just been himself and lied about his name.
Oh, also, speaking of “it’s all about love”, we can all agree that Evil Suriya and his head hunchman Mithya are clearly lovers, right? And Evil Suriya’s ultimate evil is throwing Mithya into danger in order to protect himself, instead of respecting that love. Because really, they are way way too close for just a boss-employee relationship.
I skipped over a whole bit earlier when Suriya-the-son first confronted Evil Suriya. Because ultimately that all ended up not mattering. It didn’t go well for Evil Suriya, so after stealing the watch, he used it to go back 24 hours to a time when none of it had happened. And again, “love” is reinforced as the most powerful element. Evil Suriya realizes that Suriya-the-son will need to alter the watch to make it work the way Evil Suriya wants it to work, and the only way to make him do that is to trick him through love. Which is why instead he does this elaborate charade of pretending to be Good Suriya. And using emotional manipulation to get Suriya-the-son to do his bidding.
Only, in a final twist, Suriya-the-son figures it out and uses his own emotional manipulation, pretending to be loving and devoted, and then revealing that it was all a test and he knew the truth all along. And he is going to go back in time to when it all started, just like Evil Suriya wanted, only not so that Evil Suriya can avoid the accident which put him in a coma, but so that Good Suriya and his wife will survive.
Remember, the time travel in this movie puts you with your current knowledge into the body of yourself in the past. Which means to make this work, Suriya-the-son will be traveling back into his body as a baby. Which is super strange! Especially when he ends up trapped there. Can you imagine having to go through puberty a second time? Blech!
Only, it’s also the only way to give us a happy ending in which every relationship is cherished. Good Suriya and Nithya Menon get to raise their son. But, because he still has his memories, he also remembers and honors his relationship with Saranya. And with Samantha for that matter. There’s a bit of “fate” to it too, this time Suriya and Nithya survive, but they still end up catching that same train and randomly talking to Saranya on the train. This time, she offers Good Suriya a job teaching at the school her family runs, meaning Suriya-the-son will still be raised as a part of her life. And so this relationship, in every timeline, was always fated. Just like his relationship with Samantha, who is know the girl next door, instead of a woman who walked into his watch shop. And Suriya-the-baby carries all these memories within him, so he will fully appreciate the happy ending he has achieved, and can remember the sacrifices that got him here.
(Speaking of babies, here is a baby singing the theme song)