Kuselan is not your regular Superstar formula film.
It is just a film with Superstar in it. It’s about the human side of Superstar.
By not a regular Superstar film, I mean there are no powerful adversaries, no challenges, no revenge, no riches to rags to riches character graph. And a Rajnikant film without a villain is something we haven’t seen in God knows how long! Two decades?
Kuselan is faithful to the Malayalam original Katha Parayumpol with an extended Vadivel comedy sequence and a few Superstar-movie elements inserted into the film under the pretext of movie within a movie, though we are really never sure what is the movie he’s shooting for in the film – Sometimes it’s Annamalai 2, Sometimes Chandramukhi 2 and sometimes, Kuselan.
Real meets reel as Superstar Rajnikant plays Superstar Ashok Kumar and frankly, you can’t tell the difference nor does director P.Vasu want you to know the difference. Montage of Rajnikant films and references to Superstar’s life are thrown in liberally into the Tamil remake.
Since the pace of the original is already slow, these elements further slacken the pace.
Performance-wise, Superstar is a little subdued because he has to play himself. As a fan, I understand the expectation out of a regular Thalaivar film. Though it is closest to the real him, with Kuselan, we realise that his screen persona is larger than the real him and it’s like watching a tiger put inside a cage at the circus. We so want him to break free and send bad guys flying into outer space.
All we see is Superstar flashing a smile all through the film, except the climax when he really makes you reach out for the hankies, along with the phenomenally talented Pasupathy who underplays the role to match Srinivasan’s subtlety in the original. At least most of the time. If only the background score had a similar sensibility.
To make up for the lack of masala, Vasu unleashes glamour in the form of Nayanthara cavorting in the rain and has Vadivelu leer at her like a voyeur. That should keep the front benchers happy.
But by genre, it is a sentimental film targeted at women and family audiences. City folk who are fans only because it is cool to be Superstar fans may not like the film because it has absolutely no superhero elements. Also the climax gets a little too sentimental that the “macho men” in the hall decided that making fun of the sentiment as a defense mechanism was the best way to stop the tears from rolling. Just like how people watching a genuine horror film begin to make noises just to take their minds of it and trivialise it so that they don’t have to be scared.
But, like Superstar himself says in the film: Watching a film being shot is not as exciting as watching the film itself. And Kuselan is a soppy drama with the shooting of a Superstar film being a mere backdrop. There are a few good lines written specially for Superstar in there though about 70 per cent of the film is so faithful to the Malayalam version that it’s not just the jokes that are borrowed, even the exact timing, dates, names and even shots have been recreated religiously.
Qualitatively, though Mammooty and Srinivasan churn out a much classier performance, P.Vasu’s focus here is to have Superstar and Pasupathy play it up for the masses. Some of the interesting touches from the original have been sacrificed to maintain political correctness. Like that bit in the original when the youngest of the kids asks his father why he’s the dark child in the family and the father replies cheekily that the mother had the first two kids with a foreigner. Can you imagine a mass-based audience buy that kind of irreverence in this part of the world?
For people closely following his political ambitions, let me just say that Superstar distances himself from the political punch-lines from his past films saying that he was only an actor saying his lines.
And he hastens to add, that he does not have to answer to anybody about whether or not he will do something in the future. There’s also a tinge of Superstar’s personal philosophy when he reveals why he takes a trip to Himalayas every year.
Kuselan though slow is extremely watchable if you forget the hype.
Go for it only if you are a sucker for sentiment. Let the taps flow. Bring out the hankies.
Suderman Rating: 3/5