A mysterious illness declared as dumb flu spreads in a quaint hill station forcing the town's residents from speaking. Will the problems in the place increase due to this or will it lead to better communication?
If his debut film
Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi
was an irreverent rom-com, in his second effort Balaji Mohan gives us a high-concept comedy which, in its second half, is entirely a silent film. Well, almost. Many of its tropes must be familiar to those who have seen enough Hollywood comedies and rom-coms. A do-gooder hero with a dream, a heroine with a jerk of a boyfriend, her somewhat dysfunctional family (here, it includes a forever busy dad, stepmom who has stopped writing to take care of the family and whom the heroine isn't ready to accept yet, a stepbrother who flunks in his class but is highly creative), a charity organization that faces eviction, and so on. But the director shows that you only need a bit of invention to turn routine into unique.
The film is set in Panimalai, a fictional mountain town, where the hero Arvind (Dulquer Salmaan, making a sparkling debut in Tamil) is a salesperson. As he tells a character, he cannot stop himself from mending things that are broken. He believes that every issue can be resolved if the parties involved talk sensibly to each other. The heroine, Anjana (Nazriya), is diminutive, doesn't talk much and obliges to her boyfriend's dictates (no specs, only contacts and so on). Meanwhile, interesting (read absurd) things are happening in the town. An association of drunks is protesting against a film star (John Vijay as Nuclear Star Boomesh) for defaming them in his movie, but most importantly, a mysterious illness is spreading in the town which results in people losing their voice. The government declares this as dumb flu, and quarantines the entire town. The health minister (R Pandiarajan), who is stationed there, embarrasses himself in an interview (which results in a funny YouTube mash-up video) and to save himself, announces that he is infected with the flu. And, following researchers the advice of researchers, the government implements a curfew forcing all individuals of the hill station from speaking. Will this loss of speech make things worse or will it make people to communicate better?
Vaayai Moodi Pesavum
is truly an ambitious effort, at least by Indian cinema standards, and what's truly heartening is that Balaji Mohan succeeds in his attempt. Humour is his trump card and he provides that in liberal doses and in every form, from intelligent ones to downright silly. He doesn't spare anyone, from the government machinery to the film industry and even himself. He takes a swipe at not only the fringe groups which have started curtailing freedom of expression in the form of protests but also people in the film industry, who do the same by stifling critical voices. Tellingly, he uses RJ Balaji, who was forced to take his show off air, to launch into the plot.
He doesn't stop with creating quirky characters but he manages to integrate them well with the plot. The conflict involving the drunks and film star might look like low comedy to keep the laughs coming (Robo Sankar is a scream as the leader of the protestors) but it also plays a small part in bringing together the hero and the heroine. The TV news bulletin, too, is used not just for comedy (the tickers are little gems in themselves) but also as a crutch to further the plot or narrate the off-screen events, especially in the second half. In a 'meta' touch, the director himself plays the news presenter; he is the narrator both on screen and off screen!
Given that the second half has very little dialogues, there was always the threat of it descending into tediousness, but the various sub-plots help to keep things moving. The jaunty score (by debutant Sean Roldan), too, does its part and prevents things turning dreary. If at all there is a flaw, it is that the resolutions for these various conflicts are so predictable. Anjana manages to find courage to call off the engagement with her boyfriend, the dour landlord who is hell bent on selling off the property on which the charity stands decides to let them stay after he patches up with his son, the writer Vidya getting back to writing, the incompetent minister who chose to lie about the illness loses his voice... And, the writing could have been tighter as at times, we can sense the director staying a bit too long with the sub plots.