Oru Kal Oru Kannadi

Cast: Udayanidhi Stalin, Santhanam, Hansika Motvani, Saranya Ponvannan; Music: Harris Jeyaraj; Direction: Rajesh

When writing about the comedy plays of SV Shekar, writer Sujatha summed them up as ‘Forty Jokes in Sixty Minutes.’ That should be an apt description to Rajesh’s films as well, perhaps more minutes and, consequently, more jokes. Never really someone to be bothered with plot and emotional complexities, Rajesh’s single great act was to strip Tamil Cinema of its melodramatic accessories. Before him, a comedy film in Tamil cinema was not necessarily a full-length comedy. It involved romance, heroism and even melodrama, just to make sure that those who usually expect these are not disappointed. The nonsense comedy was usually reserved for B-movies. What Rajesh has done is to take this B-movie genre and give it an A status.

In Rajesh’s films, there are no plot lines, no three-act structures, no character development, and no sub-plots; rather a sub-plot is too much to ask when there is no plausible main-plot itself. The great teachers of modern movie script techniques would be quite confused watching his films. In fact, even, just as an audience, one is bound to be confused about the progression of the story after about an hour. Ironically, it wouldn’t matter whether you understood it or not; Rajesh doesn’t expect you to. Each scene or set of scenes play like separate episodes of a short TV soap and your job is to merely focus on the current episode and look for the laughs.

And laughs do come aplenty. Amply supported by Santhanam, Rajesh delivers all the laughs necessary to keep you engaged. Some of those are misogynistic, chauvinistic, racial-stereotyping and socially irresponsible, but never mind all that. Like those SV Shekar plays, your job is not to analyse any of those jokes. You have no right to take any offence, as perhaps Rajesh never meant them anyway. He wouldn’t have spent too much time going over them. If he doesn’t care, why should you?

It remains to be seen what kind of impact Rajesh will have on the other directors. It is also to be seen whether he will manage to take this genre to the next level without Santhanam, who carries the responsibility squarely on his shoulders. Udhayanidhi would be better off spending a vacation with Koothu Pattarai to learn basic histrionic skills before commencing his next film.

Oru Kal Oru Kannadi is not a movie. It is a semi-stand-up comedy by Santhanam propped up by a supporting cast. On that level, it works.