Film: “24”; Director: Vikram Kumar; Cast: Suriya, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Nithya Menen; Rating: **
Be warned. This overblown overbaked sci fi-meets-mythology-meets-Ekta Kapoor saga of time travel is strictly for Suriya aficionados.
As expected, the actor is in full form here. Like Kamal Haasan, Suriya now threatens to become many sizes larger than his films. His recent films have either featured him in more than one role or as bombastic rhetoric-spewing unzippered heroes with motor-mouthed dialogues that looked designed for Rajinikanth.
In “24”, Suriya plays three roles. He is Sethuraman, an amiable scientist and his ‘watch mechanic’ (the term is used at least 34 times) son, and his evil twin brother Athreya who slays the scientist and his wife (Nithya Menen) in what could easily be forsaken footage from a Quentin Tarantino film.
The sheer gruesomeness of Menen’s murder should have served as a chilling precursor to Athreya’s ruthlessly evil designs. However, his ensuing actions make him look more like a spoilt silly sibling than a super-villain who hankers to get his scientist-brother’s time travel watch.
Ah, the watch! How time flies! In a quickly wrapped-up transition (belying the prolonged and protracted plot build-ups that follow) Sethuraman’s son Mani grows up to be well a citified version of Shiva (Prabhas) in “Baahubali”. The tiresome and over-cute relationship between Mani and his foster-mother (Saranya Ponvanan) seems to have been ripped off from “Baahubali”.
Before audiences drown in the milk of maternal kindness, the narrative introduces Mani’s love interest Sathya (Samantha Ruth Prabhu). For the next half an hour and more of this extended ode to time travel, time is wasted in flirtatious songs and coy exchanges done in that breathless tone that over-grown heroes in Indian cinema adapt when they play mama’s boys in love for the first time.
The film criminally squanders away precious time in corny courtship and tomfoolery. Worst still the magical time-defying wrist-watch that is the key to the film’s scientific magic Mr India-meets-Iron Man aspirations is reduced to a tacky gimmick for Mani to win over the girl.
Think of the irony of using H. G. Wells’s theory of time travel to score dating points. It is as absurd as using the nuclear bomb to scare off your neighbour’s dog.
Regrettably “24” has more bark than bite. It sets out to change the way Indian cinema looks at the sci-fi genre. Somewhere along the way it loses direction and becomes a sorry spoof of all the popular films on time travel.
The narrative heft is reliant entirely on the post-interval confrontations between the evil (and now wheel chair-bound) Athreya and his nephew Mani. By this point in time the plot is looking straight into the eyes of a mid-life crisis. Writer-director Vikram Kumar’s ambitious canvas is unmatched by a strong spine in the storytelling.
The tension in the plot is substantially diminished by the writer’s zeal to be cleverer than the audience. Time games are played between the characters with some catastrophic consequences to the narrative’s equilibrium.
The special effects and the visual dazzle are largely mediocre. Tirru’s cinematography seems awed by its own wizardry. Self-control is seriously absent. The action sequences are rugged but inconsistent. What holds this unwieldy saga together to some extent, is Suriya’s ebullient efforts to play the three characters at different scales.
Finally though Suriya and the film’s ambitions are defeated by the quality of the writing which at best is mediocre. Suriya deserves better.