Sunday, July 15, 2012

Scarface Meets The Godfather and Other Hollywood Scripts

Movie Name: Billa-2 (A)   
Language: Tamil
Cast: Ajith Kumar, Vidyut Jamval, Parvathy Omanakuttan, Brunah Abdullah
Director: Chakri Toleti
Pros: Ajith's stellar performance; fast-paced narration; mind-blowing stunts and a gripping climax
Cons: Originality takes a hit — stay away if you are awash with the gangster flicks of Hollywood, notably Martin Scorsese flicks or Coppola’s The Godfather; mind-numbing violence

Imagine, if you can, a home-grown don who answers to David Billa (known in Bollywood as Don), who, during a police encounter gets gunned down; the police get hold of his doppelganger, make him infiltrate his gang, and after a cat-and mouse game spanning locales in Malaysia, bring them to justice.

Imagine, if you still can, the focus shifting to Billa’s chronology; his rise to the top of the food chain, a la Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather-II. A refugee from a Sri Lankan camp, he begins as a small-time smuggler to working under a reigning don, and when the latter begins doubting his credibility despite his razor-edge exploits, he decides to show who the boss is.

From diamonds to narcotics to arms and explosives, he’s the one-point contact for contraband. Just as SRK had a punch dialogue to mouth in Don, "Don ko pakadna..." so does his Tamil counterpart. “I am the architect of every second of my life," he says while staring down a gun barrel. His filial ties, however, are not too pleasant.

Tony Montana (Al Pacino's character in Scarface), anyone? For most of the first half, and the second half too, Billa-2 runs on Scarface mode (not to mention the ‘inspiration’ from The Godfather and Body of Lies).

However, originality (or the lack of it) is Billa-2's only shortfall. Ajith’s simply a treat to watch as the gangster with an insatiable appetite for success, and has improved on his performance in Billa by several notches. In treating the injunction that protagonists ought to be the good guy with utmost irreverence, Billa-2 takes to the actor’s earlier venture, the roulette thrill-a-minute flick Mangaatha. The video for the song Unakkulla Mirugam..., shot in retro, pulp magazine cover style, accentuates his character. And what’s a gangster without his trademark dialogues? “You don’t need a qualification to be my friend, but you need some if you are my enemy,” are among his punch lines.

scores high on the style and glamour quotients, and could serve as a manual on product placement for eyewear. Brunah Abdullah sizzles on screen; if Parvathy was looking for that perfect launch vehicle, was a role devoid of glamour what she meant? Yuvan Shankar Raja’s electric music score and R D Rajasekar’s breathtaking cinematography, not to mention the action-tinged climax, are among the movie’s pluses.

The movie, though, does have its loose ends. The sequence where Billa raids an arms cache, in full glare of armed personnel firing lacks conviction as does Vidyut Jamval’s casting as a Russian arms warlord.
Rajagopalan Venkataraman