It is almost like the punchline of a bad joke. A wannabe edgy plot, a family friendly lead actress and mass-pandering walk into a script. And the script bleeds to a slow death. The message at the heart of the film is a very important one. If only good messages made good movies, we would have a masterpiece. Unfortunately, good movie needs a gripping screenplay, a decent story. This is where the movie falters. On the surface it has all the ingredients to make it a success. Helmed by a star who is having a good run in her ‘second innings’, an interesting plot, even the inspiration from A Few Good Men if handled well. But putting together a winning dish also involves knowing when and in what quantity the ingredients need to go in. The emotions have been cooked to the point of being mushy with a carton of you-need-to-be-sad background music beaten into it.
There are sub plots introduced and discarded like the broccoli you bought to make the dish interesting, but now stinks in a dark corner of your refrigerator. A judge and his assistant have a conversation over drinks, and it adds as much to the plot as the dried leaves of the fenugreek plant add to a recipe.
Jyothika is the salt, spread across the dish and trying to enhance the taste. She only manages it make it mildly palatable. The problem is not her acting. She has a done a great job but is not helped by the writing. At places it is cooked so low and slow that you lose your appetite by the time it is ready to be served.
The idea to summon the antagonist to court is inspired from the ‘remember he eats breakfast 300 yards from 400 Cubans’ moment from A few good men. In the final courtroom scene there is another witness who is kept waiting (again, similar to A few good men) But if you have not watched the original, you will never know the point of bringing this decoy witness. There is the beginning of a ‘You cannot handle the truth’ monologue but it is cut short by Jyothika’s character who goes on to narrate what would have happened. A confession in the courtroom is interrupted by the defence attorney and the person is still convicted. A cupboard full of law books set itself on fire in some part of the state. Again, in this case the timing was right to introduce chilli, but it was swapped with more salt. Hence breaking the cardinal rule of cooking: never swap ingredients.
There is Parthiban playing the prosecutor, wearing a coat that could very well be made of stereotype. He plays the garam masala that adds flavour to the dish but by the end is diluted with so much water that you cannot differentiate it from, err… water. His fall from top lawyer to sketch artist by the climax must be one of the saddest character arcs in recent times.
It is sad that the movie did not get a better treatment.
Good cinema has the capability of igniting conversation. This conversation is one that we need to have as a society. But on screen it needed a good packaging to make it interesting. Even if the ripped off parts in the courtroom climax had stuck faithfully to the original, it would have made for a decent watch. A message is good to have, for example, ‘do not eat animals, go vegan’. But if the vegan dish is unpalatable then maybe you cannot handle the truth but a few good chicken are going down.