Only having time for one film this weekend, I chose Eega over Bol Bachchan because Bol Bachchan seems like the kind of film that you don’t really need to see in the cinema. I assumed that Eega, being a film by SS “Magadheera” Rajamouli, would probably have much more to offer me spread large across a giant screen. I think I made the right choice, though I do still hope to catch Bol Bachchan at some point in the future.
That said, I have two caveats to this review - the first is that I saw this without subtitles, not that I had any trouble following the action but if there were any clever dialogues I wouldn’t have caught them. Thankfully, I’ve seen enough Tamil films by now to be able to pick out keywords in context. The second caveat is that, yes, I saw the Tamil dubbed version titled Naan Ee. The reason I mention it is the print I saw seems to have cut out comedy track almost completely. It left a big hole in the film, not only because I think Santhanam is hilarious but because the lack of a comedy subplot meant that there was no break from the game of cat and mouse, er... fly and mouse that takes up most of the film.
Eega (Naan Ee) is the story of Sudeep (the always fantastic Kiccha Sudeep), who is just your average everyday filmi construction mogul with a passion for shotguns and a supreme confidence in his ability to get any woman he wants. And, to be fair, it’s an earned confidence, considering he had me hooked from the minute his smirking mug appeared on screen. The fly in the ointment (!) for Sudeep comes when he tries to get Bindu (Samantha) but she shuts him down in favor of the adorable Nani (Nani). Sudeep’s wounded male pride needs to be soothed - so he decides to kill Nani, leaving the field clear for him to make a move on Bindu.
Unfortunately for Sudeep, Nani dies but he doesn’t leave the mortal plane. Nani is reborn as a fly. And this fly is mad as hell.
Until the appearance of the fly, Naan Ee is like a normal South Indian masala film. You have your cute hero in love, your villain strutting around, and a goody-goody heroine but when that CGI fly emerges from its egg to the sounds of a giant hero fanfare on the soundtrack, we step into crazy-town.
But, Filmi Girl, you might ask, this sounds kind of stupid - I mean, what can a fly do to a person?
Well, have you ever had trouble sleeping because of a fly buzzing around in your room? It’s frustrating right? The buzzing... getting paranoid over whether it will land on you while you’re sleeping... Now, imagine that annoyance was deliberate. Yeah. Sudeep is in for a rough ride.
Despite not technically being the “Hero” of the film, Kiccha Sudeep gets center stage for most of it. Sudeep has a great screen presence and maybe it’s just because I’ve seen him play Hero for Kannada films or I found his evil Capitalist smirk so fetching but I found myself cheering for the guy more often than not. Even when - especially when - he starts acting like a deranged Wile E. Coyote. And Sudeep does a wonderful job acting opposite the CGI fly - something that couldn’t have been very easy. He telegraphed all the squeamishness and annoyance and frustration of fighting a, um, fly with aplomb.
Samantha, as the heroine, started off the film doing a standard heroine act with Nani. And then, as the film goes on, she starts doing the standard heroine act to the fly and it’s extremely unsettling - but in a good way. Bindu turns out to be one freaky chick, though, perhaps we should have assumed as much from her very helpful interest in “micro-art.”
Nani doesn’t get much screentime but he leaves an impression, especially during the wonderful “Koncham Konchem” picturization. I was quite charmed by him and I completely understood why the young Bindu (not being a 32-year old librarian who has seen too many Kannada films) would be more interested in the cutie-patootie Nani than the dangerously sexy Sudeep.
Our last major character is... the fly. I’m no expert on computer graphics but I thought the fly was really well done! “He” had a lot of personality and attitude - at one point even doing a little “moustache flip.” Considering most of the audience probably thinks flies are disgusting (and I count myself in this number) I think Team Eega deserves full credit for creating a character that is realistically fly-like without triggering our collective gag reflexes.
Overall, I really enjoyed Naan Ee, despite the things I mentioned in the introduction. I’m sure there were some things I missed due to the lack of subtitles but Sudeep and the fly character were expressive enough to transmit a lot without words. After all, the humor of a guy trying to be cool while flirting with a girl while also trying not to let that girl know that there is a fly attempting to drill into his ear comes through in any language.