Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Alex Pandian or In Praise of Ridiculous Films

Since I’ve already been getting negative feedback for my endorsement (tepid as it was) of Alex Pandian, I figured I may as well devote an entire post to the film. Let me set the scene. It’s a Sunday afternoon, grey and foggy. And I can feel a grey, foggy attack of ennui brewing on the horizon. I have so much to do but I don’t feel like doing any of it and the world threatens to collapse to a single point on the couch. I really need to get out of my head for a few hours. Enter Alex Pandian, as charming as a spring breeze.

Alex Pandian is the story of, yes, Alex Pandian (Karthi). The film opens with him protecting a lovely lady dressed in white (Anushka) from a gang of rowdies who are chasing her. (Quite chillingly in the wake of the events of December 16th, I might add.) The pair end up escaping from the rowdies but we’re left unsure of their fate. Enter the always-welcome Santhanam as the dopey brother to three gorgeous sisters, whom he is obsessed with protecting from male attention - much to their chagrin. One day Santhanam returns home to find that a long lost relative has appeared on the doorstep. Yes, Alex Pandian. The rest of the first half is devoted to family comedy, double entrendres, and Santhanam getting various objects accidentally lodged up his ass.

In the second half, we find out what happened to the lovely lady in white and why the rowdies were chasing them. There is a nice, tidy anti-big business plot (and a nice, tidy big business bad guy in the form of living Ken Doll Milind Soman); more comedy from Vaiyapuri; a handful of gratuitous but sooooper fun songs; Anushka running around; and some fight scenes. What I’m saying is nobody is sending this to the Oscars anytime soon. (Though I would rather watch Alex Pandian a thousand times before being forced to sit through Barfi.)

This is not a good film but Alex Pandian was a nice timepass on that Sunday afternoon. I went into the theater with dark clouds threatening and left humming Bad Boy and feeling my mood lifted, just a little.

Yes, Karthi was my Prozac.

Alex Pandian offered nothing new - the gender roles were as stale as yesterday’s idlis and the plot was straight out of a masala 101 text book - but sometimes the viewer doesn’t want to be challenged. Sometimes all the viewer wants is to have her pants charmed off by one of Karthi’s smiles, feel indignant at the Corporate Fat Cats taking advantage of us common folk, admire the plump talent on display, and laugh inappropriately loud at jokes about ugly men wearing wigs and Santhanam getting things shoved up his ass. Film doesn’t have to be complicated and original and smart. Sometimes, it’s enough that a film is cheerful and colorful on a dreary January day.

(THERE IS A SONG WHERE KARTHI DRESSES UP LIKE A PIRATE, OKAY?! IT WAS AMUSING!)

I was listening today to a BBC 4 podcast talking about the Oscar nominations and I was reminded of a time before I had figured out that I liked (and could watch) massy Indian movies. I do have some interest in Djano Unchained and The Master but just about every other film mentioned sounded dire - ranging from Dull Yet Self-Important to White Guy Problems to Just Plain Offensive. Yet, there was a time when I really tried to force myself to like these kinds of things against all natural sense because that is what I thought good taste was. I felt guilty for going to see films that made me happy, like if the tastemakers found out I saw Spiceworld in the theater and enjoyed myself then my opinions would never be taken seriously again ever by anybody.

“Um... you realize that Lincoln shows a highly simplified and very white-washed account of Congress in the mid-19th century, right?”

“Didn't you see Alex Pandian in theaters?”

“Yeah. And I’ve also done extensive reading about the politics of the mid-19th century. Lincoln is as artificial and show-businessy as Alex Pandian but far worse, in my opinion, for pretending to be otherwise. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish writing this essay in praise of my historical boyfriend Hanibal Hamlin and then catch that screening of Race 2.”

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl