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|August 31, 2000||
Double or quits? Quits!Rajitha
One of these days, someone will take the trouble to plot Prabhu Deva's career graph. And someone else will look at it and figure it's a map of the Himalayas. Up, down, up, down, up, down.... you know the kind of dizzying thing.
This film has two surprises for you. The first is why it was made. The second is that if you figured from the title that this is a story of twins, figure again -- the doubles referred to is two women, the wife, and the other one, in Prabhu Deva's life.
Two women, one man, eternal triangle, comedy. All this was tried before, in Balu Mahendra's Rattai Vaal Kuruvi (which was inspired by an English movie).
Balu Mahendra's tale was of a man caught between wife and girlfriend, both pregnant, both at the same time, both by him.
You expect similar fun and games here, if only because Pandiarajan, who directs Doubles, is known for his very earthy humour. The story begins with Prabhu Deva and Meena as newlyweds, and the initial conflict revolves around how the wife misunderstands her husband. She thinks he is a dowry-grabbing MCP. While the truth is that it was Prabhu Deva who, quietly and behind the scenes, helped Meena's father out with the money to fund the marriage ceremony.
That conflict resolved -- and resolved early -- the director looks about for another conflict to introduce. And finds it in the shape of Sangeetha. By way of aside, Sangeetha used to be Rasika before she rechristened herself hoping for better luck at the box office. And while on the subject, she needs more than rechristening if she keeps doing movies such as this one.
Anyway, Sangeetha appears as Meena's friend. Meena lets her buddy stay with her, for the duration of whatever course it is Sangeetha has come to the city to study for. And Prabhu Deva flips -- thanks largely to Meena, who creates situations that cue her hubby into drooling over the svelte addition to the household.
And so it goes on till, somewhere towards the end of the movie, Meena dies. But surprise, surprise. It is not Sangeetha who fills the vacuum in the hero's life. In fact, Prabhu Deva gets Sangeetha married to someone else!
This one would only work as comedy. And that is precisely where it falls flat on its face. Which comes as a surprise.
Pandiarajan is to Tamil films some part of what Sreenivasan is to Malayalam cinema -- a specialist in self-effacement, with a penchant for doing roles wherein the laugh, for the most part, is on him. Or, alternately, coming up with the kind of jokes that have spawned the hugely popular kadi genre in Tamil.
For the unitiated, the kadi joke is of two kinds -- the first, relying on puns; the second and more visual, relying on situations. One example, from Pandiarajan himself in Aanpaavam, goes like this: There's a man backing his car into a tight space, and the hero is sitting on a wall watching. "Will it hit?" the driver asks. No, says the hero. So the driver backs the car some more. Again he asks, again the same response. Till finally, there is a resounding crash -- at which the hero goes, "Oh, okay, now it has hit!".
Or that other one, from Kamal Haasan's Avvai Shanmughi, the reprise of Robin Williams' Mrs Doubtfire. Where a man chasing another is stopped by a barking dog. Nearby, taking his ease, is a gent reading the paper. So the man asks this gent, does your dog bite? No, comes the reply. The man runs forward and is promptly bitten. He yelps, then turns angrily to the other and goes, I thought you said your dog doesn't bite? Sure, it doesn't, comes the response -- but this isn't my dog!
That is pretty much Pandiarajan's forte -- slices of situational humour, and a common man's down to earth look at the world around him -- both traits inherited from his mentor, Packiaraj. The problem here is that the humour is too broad, too borderline risque.
Another problem area with the film is that it starts off on one track, with the wife misunderstanding and therefore ill-treating the husband, and then switches tracks into quite another conflict altogether. That kind of treatment tends almost inevitably to confuse the audience. If you spend half an hour building up the misunderstandings between husband and wife, and then let go and switch to something else, you have effectively used up half an hour of the audience's time to take them down a cul de sac.
And if all this weren't enough, there is comedy within comedy -- in the form of a separate laugh track featuring Mannivanan and Kovai Sarala. Given that Prabhu Deva's central character has been given comical overtones, a stand-alone comedy track which is divorced from the main story becomes too much of a not-so-good thing.
All this comes as a bit of a let down at a time when Prabhu Deva, known initially for his Indiarubber dancing, had just lately proved his acting prowess in movies like Ezhayin Sirippil and Pennin Manadhai Thottu. In this film, he doesn't have to do much of either dancing, or acting. Which gives him a more than passing resemblance to a kitten lost in pouring rain -- abject misery about describes him.
Meena doesn't have much to do either. Sangeetha has to turn on the glamour. She tries -- which is the best one can say for her role. Whether she succeeds, is a question better left unasked.
The only redeeming bits -- and they are small bits -- come when Prabhu Deva and his friend, played by Vivek, discuss ideas for the former to woo Sangeetha.
Making matters worse is the music score, which does not have one memorable number to help lift the film. This is the debut score of Shrikanth, son of ace director Deva -- and judging by this evidence, the son has a long way to go to catch up with his father.
To put it tritely, this is one movie that should have quit before it doubled.
Cast:Prabhu Deva, Meena, Sangeetha, Vivek, Manivannan, Kovai Sarala and others
With inputs from Sreeram Selvaraj
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