I had absolutely no expectations from 3. Especially after a silly but fun song went viral! People seemed to have bought their own hype on the basis of THAT song?
Let’s be realistic. How perfect could a debut be? That too with all the generation next baggage it was carrying – the legacy of Rajnikant, Kamal Haasan and Selvaraghavan. Ironically, that misleading Kolaveri hype that may just kill the film. People who went in expecting a silly but light-hearted fun film were probably a little too shaken by the fact that it begins with its leading man’s death.
This is a daringly dark debut by Aishwaryaa R Dhanush and I was more than impressed by how the first half unfolded – very refreshingly light, casual and realistic. For once, actors actually looked believable playing school kids – Both Dhanush and Shruti get the body language bang on. Innocence is one of the most difficult things to capture on film and to her credit, the debutant director does it by ducking all the small cliches. No rich girl, poor boy. It’s the other way around. Not a complete idiot, boy is smart and can score 86 per cent in physics if he wants to. No trying to get to first base or second base here, the focus is on holding hands or going for a bike ride. Dhanush has come a long way from the Thulluvathu Illamai days.
When he says something mushy, she tells him not to get filmy. The film tries to keep it real. Or at least as real as it can get in the mainstream format. The first act is very real and close to life and probably the best part of the film. It has an instant connect with the young.
The second is when the makers resort to a little whimsy. And this time, it’s the boy who tries to tell the girl not to get filmy. But having crossed a threshold and a point of no return, the narrative hops along the surreal path taken. There’s a wedding in a nightclub, probably a little too much even in a Mani Ratnam romance film. If a certain lover from ‘Bombay’ told his father he can’t wait for the old man to kick the bucket to get married, here the young lover tells his Dad he’s willing to leave home and demands a share of the Grandfather’s property. As you prepare for another Alai Payuthey, we are reminded we are watching something that’s more out of the Selvaraghavan school.
The third act of the title 3 is what will either make you love it or hate the film as it lets go completely into the unreal space. It’s never easy to pull this off!
There are some moments of bloody brilliance (the one involving a pug will send shivers down your spine) and the film turns into a complete acting showreel for Dhanush as he relishes every burst of violence in the film. He saw him do a similar turn in Selvaraghavan’s largely restrained Mayakkam Enna and it’s always a pleasure to watch an actor go for a career best. When stars around are trying to capitalise and assert their heroism, Dhanush is going all out to prove he can act and he can do that bloody well and if nobody’s going to write roles for him, he will do it all by himself with help from his brother, wife and family!
It’s difficult to talk more about without getting into the spoiler part of it. So if you haven’t watched the film yet, please watch and then come back to read this.
It’s understandable that we don’t get the slightest clue about the twist in the third act in the first simply because it’s completely through the girl’s point of view. If she saw him as a normal, regular guy, there’s no way she would remember anything abnormal or out of the ordinary. But a more experienced director would have put in something there too that could be interpreted in very different light on second viewing.
The third act, that unravels mostly through the best friend’s point of view (Sunder is superb here again) shows us a very different, disturbing side of the guy we got to know in the first two acts. And it is the manifestation of this side that’s so unreal and the biggest cliche to have ever hit Tamil cinema. The dangerous thought that the mentally ill are a hazard to not just society but also the family.
And after being decidedly non-filmy (in the first, in the second and even in an action scene in the third act, one of the bad guys quips: This is not cinema fight and gives a crash course on how it should play out for real), the film explodes into one melodramatic filmy climax – be it the hero beating up half a dozen guys single handedly or showing us things that nobody would know – not the girl, not the best friend… moments where he’s alone, where he’s all by himself. Which is fine within a filmy narrative but for a film that claims it’s NOT filmy and it’s real, there’s no way anyone around would know what the character’s final moments were and this portion sticks out like a sore thumb. And as good as he is, there’s just no reason for a two minute exposition of great acting, especially in that last scene Dhanush features in.
A better filmmaker would’ve had us imagine that in our heads. What is not shown is always more powerful than what we see.
Socially, this is a terribly irresponsible film no doubt but there’s no denying that in terms of pure cinema, it marks the arrival of a filmmaker with promise. A filmmaker confident of handling the dark side, without a damn about what the market wants.
Would’ve normally gone with 6/10 but Aishwaryaa gets an extra point just considering that this is her debut. 7/10