By Subhash K Jha
Film: “Ayogya” (Tamil); Starring: Vishal Krishna, Raashi Khanna, K.S. Ravikumar; Director: Venkat Mohan; Rating: **** (4 stars)
For those who were wondering why a third version of the same rape-and-retribution story that was filmed earlier in Telugu as “Temper” and in Hindi as “Simmba”, here’s the answer.
“Ayogya” betters both by leaps and bounds. It is what remakes are meant to be. Strong, adventurous, assertive and muscular. As directed by first-timer Venkat Mohan (with, I suspect, major help from the film’s leading man), the story of a seedy cop who turns a new leaf after a rape incident, is turned into a triumph of transformative cinema.
“Ayogya” is powerful in its persuasive tempo and almost a frantic attempt to keep our attention from straying.
What Vishal, in superb athletic form, does is to change the punctuation marks from the earlier films, play around with the dramatic episodes so that the film’s take on the theme of finding one’s conscience acquires an all-new life and vigour.
As played by Vishal, the cop Karnan is a spoilt brat who cannot help demand attention all the time. He falls in love with an animal-loving Raashi Khanna (nice touch that, because when we see her surrounded by innocent canines her own guilelessness shines through).
Scenes of courtship have been curtailed prudently and strangely the song breaks are not unwelcome. The item song with Sana Khan (mischievously referred to as ‘Sunny Leone’ by our hero), has Vishal moving in with his dance steps that will bring the house down.
Rightly, Vishal focuses on his character’s leap from corruption to redemption, with the redemptive elements in the plot rightly dominating the proceedings.
Even more wisely, the rape crime that is a turning point in the story has been given much more space here in the Tamil version than the Hindi or Telugu versions. There are shrieking references to the Nirbhaya episode. While calling attention to the heinousness of the crime, “Ayogya” never seems exploitative. It is exaggerated in its zeal to communicate its righteous indignation (and one pre-climactic “Drunken Monk” fight would make even Vishal’s staunchest fans dizzy). But the film never loses its zing and sting.
Most significant of all is the change in the climax that pitches the story of the cop-hero’s conversion into the sphere of instant iconisation. I’d rate the film’s unexpected ending as one of the most fabulous final hurrahs in living memory.
The larger-than-life tale is told with a sufficient amount of self-assurance. The cocky cop’s initial self-seeking strategies are put forward by Vishal rigorously, He is a scene stealer all the way to the end and far better at creating a graph from grin to grim for the cop’s character than in his earlier films.
Vishal literally slays it in this arresting adaptation of a story where the cop’s childlike attention-seeking gimmicks make way for a yearning to be saluted by the one most honest and incorruptible character in the film.
Vishal gets that salute from the righteous veteran cop (K.S. Ravikumar). And we second that.
(Subhash K Jha can be contacted at [email protected])