Beast movie review: Humour and zany performance save Vijay's inconsistent film
In Beast, Vijay is surrounded by eccentric and flamboyantly funny characters, but as cliches pile up, the irreverent jokes aren’t enough to keep this beast alive
castVijay, Pooja Hegde, Selvaraghavan, Vtv Ganesh, Shine Tom Chacko
Hero introduction shots from star vehicles can form a separate line of film study. How you introduce your star to the audience is a huge deal. From low angles, slow motions, and close-ups -- there are several tools that each director uses to hype up their star. The mass-ier it gets, the better it is. But in Beast, Vijay gets a frills-free introduction shot. There are no close-up shots of the star’s eyes, ears, or feet -- it is just Vijay with a balloon. It’s probably the subtlest introduction Vijay has received, in forever, on screen. But it’s a hint of Nelson’s biggest tool to surprise his audience -- subversion.
Watching a commercial film is agreeing to be part of a social contract -- we are not allowed to question certain things. For example, how the protagonist always walks through a barrage of bullets completely untouched. Our heroes can, and probably will, do anything to achieve their goal -- the laws of physics or biology cannot stop them. The challenge is to keep us surprised, despite all these tropes.
Nelson does that with his humour. With Beast, there's a clear pattern in his films. He has a protagonist who is stoic but quirky. This protagonist is surrounded by characters who are eccentric and flamboyantly funny. The narratives are heavily embellished with humour, which taps heavily into irony -- feeble old men working as security agents, thugs who come to kill someone end up working with the same person they targeted… When the irony is not in the setting, it is in the dialogue or the performance. Nelson’s worlds, and their inhabitants, are defined by their quirkiness.
In Beast, Vijay neatly slips into his place in this whacky world as RAW spy Veera Raghavan. Vijay is known for being exuberant on screen. But Veera Raghavan rarely speaks. He is a man of action, quite literally -- he shoots more than he speaks. Vijay looks extremely suave and is as agile as ever on-screen, in probably his most subdued but sophisticated avatar. Manoj Paramahamsa's chic frames and Anirudh's catchy music further amp up the style.
Similar to Doctor's Varun, Veera plays the perfect foil to the eccentricity of the characters around him. He sets the comedians around him for their punchlines. (Everyone has their share of good quips. VTV Ganesh, especially, is a hoot). But unlike Doctor, the humour here is thankfully clean and free of low blows. Even the jokes and references around Vijay’s political presence are well-done. In the first half, the zany performances and humour keep you entertained enough to forget (or forgive) the glaring lapses in logic.
Beast unravels in the second as the questions -- big and small -- pile up. It feels like some chunks have been left on the edit table.
Why is Preethi (Pooja Hegde) wearing a different top all of a sudden? What happens after Veera asks his accomplices to spread important information among hostages -- how do they do it without the terrorists’ knowledge? Not that it would be difficult, not with these militants who don’t even monitor the CCTVs efficiently. The film badly suffers from having weak antagonists -- international terrorists who operate with the exposure and intelligence of school children. (This was an issue in Doctor as well) It is ridiculous that militants from a globally infamous organisation don’t even know basic surveillance and get distracted by the lamest of lies.
As the film progresses, the loopholes become increasingly unbearable. The irreverent quips become repetitive, and there's nothing else to keep us entertained. The action sequences get grander, and subsequently, more implausible. Veera drives a car into a glass lift with no real damage to anyone, the vehicle or the lift. He can throw bombs in the middle of a mall but the floor gives away only when he wishes it. The film is determined to share its ‘mass’ moments with everyone. But they don’t have the intended effect. It’s not enough to just envision mass-y moments, but there is a need to present them convincingly. As cliches pile up, the irreverent jokes aren’t enough to keep this beast alive.
Beast is currently playing in cinemas.
Rating: * * *
Ashameera Aiyappan is a film journalist who writes about Indian cinema with a focus on South Indian films.
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