HEADLINES:
November 20 2017
Neruppu Da review: Firefighting with friends
09 September 2017

A confused, underwritten whodunit populated by few interesting characters

How many times are we going to see films that portray those living in the slums as anti-social elements walking around with sharp knives and machetes intimidating people and the police? These narratives keep getting recycled despite nuanced portrayals of North Madras in movies such as Pa. Ranjith’s Madras.

Filmmaker Ashok Kumar’s Neruppu Da, starring Vikram Prabhu and Nikki Galrani in the lead role, is yet another film that is about a young, honest, youth named Guru, who aspires to become a fireman, taking on a dangerous history-sheeter. The hero is from the slums, the rowdies are from the slums: they are at each other’s throats.

After Guru (Vikram Prabhu), an aspiring firefighter, and Vasumathi (Nikki Galrani), a doctor, swiftly fall in love over the course of a song, Neruppu Daactually gets going with an ‘accidental murder’ of the best friend of ‘Pulianthope Ravi’ by Guru’s best friend over a drunken brawl. There are two murders in the film: the first one unleashes the usual tried and tested narrative of a rowdy scouring the earth and heavens to find his best friend’s killer and the second transforms the film into an actual whodunit before going for the big reveal at the end.

Neruppu Da
  • Cast: Vikram Prabhu, Nikki Galrani
  • Director: Ashok Kumar
  • Storyline: A gang of firefighters come face to face with a dangerous don from North Madras.
  • Bottomline: A confused, underwritten whodunit populated by few interesting characters

The usual Tamil cinema tropes are employed: Puliyanthope Ravi roars in front of the camera that he will avenge his friend’s death, summons the well-known rowdies in Chennai and so on.

These sequences cannot but remind everyone of actor Vijay and Ajith’s movies of the 2000s (and perhaps even their recent ones), where a chance encounter of the hero leads to a murder, which results in a massive manhunt launched by the villain.

The other issue with the film is that the film’s novelty factor that the lead character is an aspiring fireman is not central to the film. It stands out like a gimmick. He could have been studying for the UPSC exams instead and it would have made no difference to the film. Also, why are we still writing lead female characters with no depth and character arc?

Despite all this, the film also tries to veer away from becoming a template north Madras rowdy film, for Ashok Kumar has written characters that are new and novel. For instance, the hero’s father is a sanitary worker with the Corporation of Chennai. While usually such characters are merely written to talk about their plight, this film goes even further: he has been humanised, written in such a way that the character exhibits empathy and warmth.

The writer employs conventional writing techniques from time to time to make things tick: when the audience thinks that Guru and his friends are finished, they are not. When the audience thinks that Guru is off the hook, he gets into a bigger problem. Unfortunately, these techniques only provide a cosmetic makeover to a script that is bereft of originality. Things do get interesting after the film re-establishes itself late into the second half as an actual ‘whodunit’. But the big reveal feels contrived much like the film itself.

 

 

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