Mersal is many things, but it isn't a 'family entertainer' — no matter what the reviews say

Vignesh Raja

Oct,21 2017 17:31:21 IST

It’s been 25 years since Thevar Magan released on Diwali. And it has been 25 years since a frightened six-year-old me ran around on the bed screaming “Kamal wants to chop my head, Kamal wants to chop my head”. Spoiler alert if you still haven’t watched the film yet (also: shame on you), but that was the ending of the film where Kamal uses a huge sword to lop off Nasser’s head — a shot Andre Agassi would have been proud off.

Remember the year was 1992. I learnt two things that night: firstly, even in my dreams I was never the hero, but the villain. And secondly, that film was not meant for kids. This event (of me running around) would be recounted at every family gathering and every time the movie played on cable TV. My parents never worried about this, surprisingly — the same parents who would diagnose me with whooping cough if I coughed once and rush me to the doctor since I was the only child. Remember this is still 1992, the pre Web-MD era — sorry, the ‘Have you heard of this new technology called World Wide Web’ era.

Vijay in a still from Mersal

Vijay in a still from Mersal

My parents later would take me to see Schindler’s List where my eyes were closed for the parts where the Jews were made to strip down, but not the brutal headshot scene. But I don’t blame my parents; the year was 1992, entertainment meant films, discipline meant leather belt whoopings and baby sitter meant the neighbour whose door was always happen and had some hundred kids running around, only two of them being theirs, third one on the way. I don’t blame my parents for that nightmare because parenting then was different. So different that they came from an era where they thought bell bottoms were cool. Also I don’t blame them or judge them specifically, because the film was rated ‘U’ when it released.

Cut to 25 years later, Thevar Magan is now a classic, but instead of revisiting the classic I choose to punish myself by watching Mersal. A film hailed as a hit even before it released, a film termed a family entertainer, a film starring Vijay — all of which naturally meant I was seated next to a six-year-old munching on popcorn worth my annual pocket money in 2010. Before I tangentially move on to ‘in those days’ conversations, I knew the film was going to rubbish from start, but I was curious to see the kid’s expression as he watched his favourite star on screen. The punch dialogues happened, the songs happened, the high speed sequence of the hero walking, wearing sunglasses, giving a dialogue, removing the sunglasses, walking again, giving a dialogue and wearing the sunglasses again happened. And then the gore fest began:

It started off with a villain being lynched in a sword-in-the-box magic trick, continued with a young girl being rammed by a truck and blood spilling everywhere  (in slow motion of course, it’s a three-hour movie), the girl suffering, the girl dying, and the mum jumping off the hospital committing suicide, blood spilling everywhere, a man suffocated to death in a box, a man being ground to death, a man frozen to death, a man drowned to death in a Houdini-type box. And this was just the first half of the film.

And before you guys go crazy over the spoiler alerts, please shut up, it’s a rubbish film and shame on you (and me) if you want to watch it. The second half gets even more interesting because the show a complete C-section in all its glory, no blurred out images, nothing. Even the crowning of the baby’s head, a scene that would make a fully grown person go weak in the knees. The C-section was followed by the newborn turning blue and dying and the mum dying after a violent (also rather hammy) seizure. Which is followed by the hero chopping off a henchman’s arm similar to the climax of Thevar Magan. But the beauty of this is — we’re not even at the climax. The climax involves a ton of bottles and blood being hurled at the villain. The kid I think stopped eating by the time the C-section was over and when the arm chopping scene happened, he literally shivered. And this is a movie rated ‘U/A’, hailed by everyone with an internet connection reviewers as a family entertainer, hailed by the media as a must-watch film.

Somewhere between the blue baby and the bottle scene, I developed paternal instincts for the kid and wanted to yell at the parents for bringing him to this gore fest. Now mind you, I am not a snowflake who is turned off by blood, I enjoy a good blood-bath film like every other depraved human being. But the gore in this film wasn’t enjoyable or even tastefully done. Even B-grade gore films have more class. What angers me more is the fact the creators of the film have the gall to declare this a family entertainer. I understand that an ‘A’ certificate would mean no DVD rights, no satellite rights or umpteen cuts which would make the whole film about Vijay walking in slow motion and removing his sunglasses.

I don’t want to involve the CBFC in this, because we know how amazing they are. I don’t want to involve the theater owners (because, capitalism). I don’t want to involve the BJP protesting the film for its anti-GST dialogues because I don’t have an Aadhar card yet. I don’t want to involve the filmmakers because if they had basic sense they wouldn’t be making this film in the first place. But I want to involve the parents because we have now replaced leather belts with Kale, quality time with screen time and vacations with grandparents with summer camps that would make North Korea blush. It’s high time parents started vetting content before involving their kids. Granted, with the internet these days, children will be more and more desensitised to violence, objectification and what not, but that’s a whole debate on its own. But please just vet the content before your kids watch something. Also I want to involve the ‘reviewers’: please do think before you review something, because — believe it or not — some people take your words seriously and get their kids to the movies. Before you say ‘please like, share and subscribe’ and upload your review, think again and maybe get a dictionary and learn what family entertainer means. (Not you Mr Bharadwaj Rangan, you are awesome and you know I love you.)

Since the makers don’t care, the theater owners don’t care, and clearly no one cares, it’s high time parents start taking care. Unless of course, you think family entertainment means watching your kid run around the bed yelling, “Vijay don’t cut my hand! I don’t want babies because C-sections look gross! Also Vijay don’t cut my hand, take my eyes instead, I can’t watch this anymore.”

Updated Date: Oct 21, 2017 17:31 PM