One of these days, someone's going to compile a list of the 100 best films titled Narasimha.
There was a Hindi film with Sunny Deol, a superhit in Malayalam more recently with Mohanlal playing the avtaar. And now a Tamil one with Vijaykanth in the lead -- and those are merely the ones I am aware of.
Again, one of these days, someone's going to do a doctoral dissertation about superstitions and whether they really work.
Vijaykanth has had three huge hits with Vanathai Pole, Vallarasu and Vanchinathan -- all, you notice, beginning with the intial V.
Narasimha is the first time he's gotten out of the V -- and it would be very surprising if this one made half the waves at the box office that the three earlier films did.
For some time now, Vijaykanth -- who, in his early days, was dubbed the poor man's Rajnikanth -- has been filling the gap left in the Tamil firmament by Rajni. More so since the Superstar has been dormant for over two years now.
This film, at some level, seeks to reinforce that connection, emphasise Vijaykanth's assumption of the mantle. More on why and how, later.
The film marks the Tamil debut of director Thirupathiswami, who has had two better than average Telugu grossers with Ganesh (starring Venkatesh) and Azad (Nagarjuna).
Pity, though, is that the young director with the big dreams died in a car crash, while returning home late after an editing session, just weeks before the release of the film. In fact, the film opens with a garlanded picture of the director and the words: "We had hoped to garland you for the success of the film. It is tragic that we now have to garland your photograph."
To get to the film itself -- this one is a commercial confection, replete with fights and chases and some stunning stunt sequences and songs plus dialogues dripping patriotism (story G V Kumar, screenplay and direction Thirupathiswamy).
The film has Vijaykanth playing a hard-edged, unforgiving, ruthless character. The first half of the movie shows him challenging the might of a vague military intelligence, patterned presumably on the Research and Analysis Wing and headed by Raghuvaran.
Time and again, he intimates upcoming acts -- the bombing of the CBI headquarters, followed by three killings of prominent personalities -- and carries them off bang on schedule, despite the best efforts of all concerned to prevent him.
And then, on the stroke of the interval bell, it turns out that he is a good guy after all -- some kind of supersleuth with a mission.
The crux of the story is that there is this Pakistani terrorist outfit, operating in -- where else? -- Kashmir, that has dreamt up a new twist. Namely, to kidnap the chiefs of the army, navy and air force, and publicly execute them on Independence Day.
Vijaykanth's mission is to rescue the chiefs and foil the terrorists. How he does it, is what the film is about.
So why doesn't it work well? For one thing, it is filmmaking by numbers: one incident, then another, then another, a song for relief, followed by incident four... till it all gets a touch predictable.
For another, the hero accomplishes some remarkable -- in fact, seemingly impossible -- feats. But how? His methodology is never clear, and after a point, you begin to live in a state of perennially suspended disbelief.
The film -- produced by Vijaykanth's home banner Captain Cine Creations, and co-produced by Sudheesh -- has a nifty lineup of technicians. Mani Sharma, who has produced some hit scores in Telugu, takes credit for the music, while Tarun Kumar, Hari and Sampatraj choreograph the dances.
Besides Vijaykanth and Raghuvaran, you have Bombay model Rahul Dev, who had a brief Hindi foray with the Sunny Deol-starrer Champion, playing the chief terrorist and doing a fair job of it what's more. Sharat Saxena, Malayalam character actor Varghese, Anandraj, Kazan Khan and Ranjit line up on the side of the villains.
Isha Koppikar plays Vijaykanth's love interest, and her role is purely decorative. Ramya Krishnan appears for one song.
But essentially, the film is about Vijaykanth.
And the swarthy star seems to have an agenda -- a political one -- akin to the one that sparked Rajnikanth's films in the mid to late nineties, if you go by some of the carefully calibrated lines. In fact, at one point, Vijaykanth takes an overt, and very obvious, dig at Rajnikanth when he says, "If I ever enter politics, it won't be a sham, I won't say one day that I will and the next day that I won't, or peep in from the sidelines -- I'll enter politics, and clean it up, one shot."
Good material for provoking whistles and cheers.
As are the songs and dances and fights and chases and all the rest of it. A pity that Thirupathiswamy's debut Tamil outing -- unfortunately, his last outing as well -- doesn't manage to put all the ingredients together in the right proportion.