Spyder, Ramanaa, Thuppakki, Kaththi: Exploring the emotional quotient in Murugadoss' films

Karthik Keramalu

Sep,28 2017 11:07 28 IST

Let me get this out of the way first. Have you wondered about the names of the hero and villain of A. R. Murugadoss’s Spyder? I have.

I haven’t been able to shake my head off it from the time their names fell on my ears. Spyder’s story carries different heads of the same coin. The protector, Mahesh Babu, is named Shiva, and, the annihilator, S. J. Surya, is given the name Bhairavudu (which is another version of Bhairava, just like Shiva is called Shivudu in Telugu).

Lord Shiva is widely known as the destroyer of evil, and, his fiercest form, Bhairava, is associated mainly with killing. Of course, Bhairava doesn’t slay hundreds of innocents (like S. J. Surya does in the movie).

Mahesh Babu in SPyder. Image from Facebook: SPyder film

Many theories suggest that Lord Bhairava goes beyond the trappings of fear and roams around with the skull of Lord Brahma. And what does a young Bharaivudu play with, at the graveyard? Skulls. There’s a dialogue, too, to remind the viewers that his name is extracted from mythology. Bhairavudu says to Shiva that he isn’t afraid of anything in one of the scenes that bring them both together.

And for a villain named Bhairavudu, his home couldn’t have been any farther from a graveyard (again a reference to the Lord being a graveyard dweller). The similarities between Lord Shiva’s Bhairava and Murugadoss’s Bhairavudu end there. The idea of Bhairavudu deriving pleasure from watching others suffer is employed purely for the purpose of making Spyder look entertaining and effective.

Murugadoss doesn’t usually name his characters according to the traits they express. Moreover, names are given to newborns, whereas traits and jobs that people pick up in their lives come much later.

Even then, I was surprised to see these elements shine in Spyder more than the way he made a bunch of womenfolk scale walls to rescue a family from the clutches of Bhairavudu’s wrath because at least one interesting sequence is a must in his films (remember the awesome twelve-member shootout episode in Thuppakki?).

The Emotional Quotient Of Murugadoss’s Films

The protagonists of Murugadoss’s films from 2002’s Ramanaa to 2017’s Spyder have battled against the tyranny of evil men.

The way these protagonists fall into the antagonists’ webs has mostly remained the same. A nice guy who’s having a jolly good time finds himself in the midst of chaos unleashed by the villain.

If you squint just about a little, you’ll notice that the good man and the bad man aren’t related to each other in any manner; however, their paths cross inevitably and it’s left to the hero to save the world.

  • Ramanaa’s Vijaykanth forms an Anti-Corruption Force to take on the corrupt government officials (after his pregnant wife and child die) due to the corruption that allows Vijayan to build apartment buildings in an unsuitable place.
  • Thuppakki’s Vijay hunts down Vidyut Jammwal (after he learns about the sleeper cells and their plans to bomb various parts of Mumbai).
  • Kaththi’s Vijay, a reformed thief, helps farmers reclaim their village-lands (which will provide them with water for agriculture) that were usurped by a corporate honcho (who wanted to use the same land and water for a factory).
  • Spyder’s Mahesh Babu wants to eliminate Surya, a serial killer who fits the bill of a person afflicted with sadistic personality disorder.

In all these films, Murugadoss’s heroes are quite frankly shocked by the depths of inhumanity the villains can go down to. That’s the reason his heroes build up anger in them. This makes the moral versus immoral clash seem larger than the individuals. Now, it’s about two sections of the society trying to out-muscle one another. Nevertheless, these various shades of social evils invariably queue up to join the emotional side.

(L to R) Vijay in Thupakki, Vijayakant in Ramanaa, Vijay in Kaththi. Images from Twitter.

Kaththi had a lengthy flashback portion that dived into the poor living conditions of farmers. It spoke about how their lives were on the brink of being wiped out by a multinational corporation. It didn’t have much scope for romance and comedy in the latter half to flourish. And, Murugadoss rightly kept those under check. Thuppakki, on the other hand, dealt with the subject matter of terrorism flamboyantly.

The narrative structure of Thuppakki gave room for Harris Jayaraj’s songs, Jayaram’s comedy, and the lead couple’s romance to work wonders. If the same treatment had been applied for Kaththi, it would have fallen hard on its nose. Murugadoss didn’t dumb down the voice of farmers’ suicides with wisecracks. But, he does it in Spyder, and that’s the film’s greatest blunder.

The director uses every trick in the cinematic interruption book to tone down S. J. Surya’s madness by placing romantic songs in unnecessary junctions. Come to think of it, Rakul’s character is totally unnecessary in Spyder. Her absence would have shortened the run time a bit, and, in that place, maybe, we would have gotten into the head of Surya’s Bhairavudu a couple of minutes more.

Wouldn’t that have been better for a film that underlines the powers of the protector and the destroyer?'

Also read: Spyder movie review: Mahesh Babu, AR Murugadoss film is the smart spy thriller Telugu cinema needed