Sunday, December 11, 2011

Osthe: The Mass; Osthe: The Boss

"You’ve heard of Sivaji the Boss? He’s Osthe the Mass."

First things first - aside from sharing a basic plot, Osthe and Dabangg are nothing alike. Dabangg was more than a film; it was a middle-finger salute to the tales of Yash Raj rich that have dominated Hindi-language films over the last 10 years. Dabangg represented both a return of earthy masala filmmaking and of the bhai himself, Salman Khan. Chulbul Pandey, like Salman, had suffered some serious blows in his past but he was still standing - battered but triumphant.

As a remake of Dabangg, Osthi has none of that context. It can’t represent a return of masala because the Tamil film industry never stopped making those films in the first place. And unlike Chulbul Pandey, Osthe Velan isn’t a world-weary 40+ man. Played by the fresh-faced and extremely energetic Simbu, Osthe has a completely different energy from the weathered Chulbul. This doesn’t mean that Osthe is a worse film than Dabangg (far from it!) but it does mean that you can’t really compare them in a meaningful way. Osthe takes the basic plot of Dabangg and builds a real frame-busting entertainer out of it. Every masala element is stretched to maximum capacity... and then taken one step further. Osthe may not be a watershed film, like Dabangg, but it succeeded at blowing my socks off with its sheer entertainment value.

Just like in Dabangg, Osthe Velan is a policeman in a small rural town. Although he loves his mother (Revathi) dearly, Osthe is constantly at odds with his lazy half-brother (Jithan Ramesh) and his emotionally cold step-father (Nasaar). One day, Osthe intercepts some thugs carrying cash that they are supposed to distribute to the surrounding villages to buy votes for political candidate Boxer Daniel (Sonu Sood, reprising his role in the original.) Boxer Daniel is none to pleased with this and embarks on a mission to both a) get his cash back and b) destroy Osthe.

In the midst of all of this we have two romances happening - Osthe has fallen for gorgeous potter Neduvalli (Richa) and is trying to woo her and his lazy half-brother is stuck in a holding pattern with the lovely Nirmala (Saranya Mohan) because her father is too poor to pay a dowry. Will Osthe defeat Boxer Daniel? Will Osthe reunite his family? Will the boys get to marry their respective romantic partners? You’ll have to watch to find out!

As far as I can tell, Osthe hasn’t generated a huge response in Tamil Nadu, which is too bad but understandable. Mass entertainers are a dime a dozen down in that part of the world and Osthe doesn’t aspire to be more than a mass entertainer. What it does aspire to do - and I think it succeeds - is to be THE BEST mass entertainer possible. In other words, Osthe: The Mass wants to be osthe, the mass. Directed with a sharp eye by Dharani, the film is jam-packed with action pieces, songs, comedy scenes, romance, and family drama. There isn’t a dull moment to be found - to the extent that the only time the older gentleman sitting in front of me could use for a bathroom break in the second act was Mallika Sherawat’s item song.

Simbu is not a great dramatic actor - and thankfully he wasn’t given too much heavy-lifting as far as emotional drama was concerned - but the boy is a born crowd pleaser! His dancing was superb, his fights were entertaining, his constant bum-flashing was hilarious, and his romancing was delightful. Importantly, when Simbu wasn’t on screen, I wanted him back on it.

As Osthe, Simbu has the cocky, self-assured attitude of a young man who knows in his bones that he is righteous and that those who oppose him are not. It takes a real alpha male not to look like a jackass as he dances in a fancy Dubai hotel wearing a half-mast lungi and Simbu does so with aplomb. He’s a good few inches shorter and a good deal less buff than Sonu Sood but like a rooster staring down a bulldog, Simbu’s attitude made the contest seem equal.

While Simbu was most definitely the HERO and the sole star of the show, the other actors all held their own. Richa was a dream as the silent Neduvalli. And her midriff on the big screen is worth the price of admission. Githan Ramesh as the half-brother did a nice job of straddling the line between spoiled brat and wounded pride. Revathi was the pure soul of filmi mothers. Santhanam steals many a scene as Othse’s deputy. (Despite the excellent subtitles, there were some jokes I didn’t catch but the crowd was guffawing more often than not at Santhanam’s comedy dialogues.) Sonu Sood proves himself to be worth the cash yet again as he gives Simbu a formidable villain to fight against, livening up every scene he was in - to the extent that the biggest line in my notes from the film reads, “I WANT BOXER DANIEL FOR PRESIDENT T-SHIRTS!”

Before I wrap this up, I just have to gush about the song picturizations for a minute. With the exception of “Kalasala Kalasala,” Mallika’s item that is the perfect bathroom break song, every other track in this film is superb. Every. One. Possibly the reason “Kalasala Kalasala” feels mediocre* is that it’s the only song that isn’t dominated by Simbu’s excellent dancing skills. This kid has got IT. He shimmies, shakes, and leads what feels like hundreds of junior artistes and dancers in high-energy dance routines that had me tapping my toes in my seat. The choreography was beyond excellent. In my favorite song, “Neduvalli,” Simbu leads a pack of male dancers in routine and then every so often the camera will shake, drums will pound, and from off-screen streams in a pack of lady dancers to complete the routine. It is amazing.

So, will Osthe change your life? No. Will it put a song in your heart and a dance in your feet? Yes. Will it make you want a Boxer Daniel election slogan T-shirt? Yes. Do I believe rumors that the film was delayed so Simbu could get a six-pack? Yes. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

*Also, please, directors, never make Sonu Sood lip sync ever again.

ETA: Check out this great interview with director Dharani!

Dharani is as commercial as a filmmaker gets with Dhil, Dhool, Ghilli and Kuruvito his credit. Critics weren’t kind to Kuruvi, but Dharani never looks back at his own films. “Once I finish a film, it’s over. No use looking back.”

It’s almost like he’s speaking “punch dialogue” (as they are called in Kodambakkam) for every question asked. It’s no surprise then that he’s probably the best choice to make mass-based films that are unapologetic commercial entertainers shorn of guilt.


OG said...

Awesome review FG.

Osthe has not generated the buzz as Silambarasan expected.. but as you said, it must be becoz that we "own" the masala genre...... :)

I personally dont think I will be watching this film but it is interesting to see the rise of the "Young Super Star".

The man is a superb dancer; you have got to see some of his other crazy stuff......

Until recently, he was called (he called himself?) the "little super star"; and now he has upgraded to "young Superstar". I dont know what he will be calling himself 10 years down the line..... :)

Have you watched Vinnaithandi Varuvaya? It is a film which changed his image in Tamil cinema....

He is son of the small time actor/thamizh activist "T Rajendran" and I will forever be grateful to TR (as he called) for these legendary scenes.........

Filmi Girl said...

Thanks for all the links!! I've never seen Simbu in anything so I was taken by surprise at how charming he is! And I completely understand why audiences in Tamil Nadu aren't too excited by this film because it's nothing special or different from other masala films. What it is, is a very well-made mass entertainer.

It's the kind of film where if you were looking for something to do one night, you can go watch it and have a good time.

One thing I was happy about was the excellent quality of the subtitles. Much better than any recent Hindi release I've seen!

OG said...

Hey FG,

I am also happy that we are subtitling our films now.....

btw, if you want to watch more of Dharani, I suggest you watch the epic "Dhool" starring vikram......

the word "epic" would not do the film any justice....
I know you like vikram and he is way beyond epic in that film..

Bombay Talkies said...

I can't manage to get past the poster. That's an awful lot of padding in the front of those pants... ;)

kashish said... i not happy to have landed on your site and read this wonderful review...xllnt...for once i could find a non-tamil speaking person capture the essence....hats off...and you write very well...seriously...will definitely be tuned to read your other stuff....and yes please do watch Vinnaithandi a big film buff and for me VTV is the most practical, sensual and brilliantly made romantic movie....have a nice day and keep writing :)

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
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