On how many occasions have we seen big pockets, a grand canvas, a huge starcast and tech teams coming together, only for the director to screw it all up? Vijay’s Puli is a perfect example of this occurrence, where a visionary director in Chimbudevan gets it right on paper but messes it up in the script to screen translation.
Somewhere through the second half of the film, you get this feeling that both the baselines of Puli and Baahubali are surprisingly so similar, right from the first frame. When it comes to period films, it is sad that our directors opt for the safe (not anymore) revenge sagas rather than bringing interesting events from history to our knowledge. After starting off pretty decently, the film goes bonkers in the second half, with the introduction of the second Vijay in the infuriating, cringe-worthy flashback sequence. It is Chimbudevan who has to take up the blame here. Though his imagination range is evident, he fails to transform it into a narrative. Most of Puli feels like a parody. Yes, a parody.
Puli is more of a Vijay film than a Chimbudevan film, and that is not a good thing. There are a ton of political mentions which make you ponder whether they were floated in by the director or the actor. His characterisation too, doesn’t correspond to the situation. Ostensibly, Chimbudevan brought in Kathiresan from Kaththi and pushed him through a makeover. It would have been so much better if Vijay had put in some efforts from his side to suit the role. Finally, it boils down to his cherubic expressions and the dance which have to make you content. Of course, we cannot conclude without appreciating the guts to do a fantasy film at this point of his career. Apart from him, the two leading ladies have no lead in the film, and Sudeep has been wasted in a negative role of sorts. Sridevi has made a comeback, that’s about it. In this puzzle, it is Sathyan, Thambi Ramaih and the rest of the comedians who offer the occasional laugh which tickles the funny bone.
The tech team of Puli has done a commendable job to make it a visually satisfying experience. Be it Natty’s stunning camerawork or Muthuraj’s artwork, the result is flawless. I also liked the way how the costumes slowly got better for Vijay in ascendance, good job there. Some scenes really did take me back to the childhood fantasies like Kutti Chaatan. But yeah, even those had better music.
Yet, the air of creativity that you usually associate with Chimbudevan’s films is present in Puli too. There are talking birds, miniature men and the 180-year old adviser is not a long-haired sage but a huge tortoise. Though the director has chosen to narrate a familiar story in an unfamiliar land, the setting and the never-seen-before characters that you find in the film are those that help you sit through it. The stunning CGI work which was the punching bag before release, turns out to be the life saver here. And that somehow equalizes to Puli’s result – a glossy looking comic-book which isn’t completely enjoyable when you read through it.
Verdict: A triumph of creativity, taken to the gutters.
2.5 / 5