After tackling a surprisingly easy Friday evening Chicago traffic, we settled down into the comfortable seats of Big Cinemas (Niles, IL) with the hope of watching at least a mildly entertaining Tamil movie in the rather oddly named “180” – No Rules.
When the show began, the censor board certificate revealed the official name – Nootrenbadhu which means 180 in Tamil. Followers of Tamil cinema probably know that “Nootrenbadhu” will save them entertainment tax which “180” will not.
Cast: Siddharth, Priya Anand, Nithya Menon, Mouli and others
Direction: Jayendra (Debut)
Producers: Sathyam Cinemas and Aghal Films
Ajay aka AJ, is a medical doctor in San Francisco. He is happily married to Renuka (Priya Anand).
A drastic revelation makes him abandon his wife and flee to India where he lives under a new identity.
Mano, as he calls himself in India, does not have an actual job or purpose in life. Despite having a lot of money on hand Mano spends his time sharing the workload of child laborers – delivering newspapers, selling peanuts, ironing cloths etc.
Mano frequently runs into Vidya (Nithya Menon) who is a photographer for a Tamil daily. They become friends and circumstances lead Vidya to fall in love with Mano. Once Mano learns about her love he tries to leave town.
Vidya has a road accident as she tries to follow the bus in which Mano is leaving town. She needs an operation that can be performed only by a few specialists. Mano decides to take Vidya to San Francisco to get her the best medical help.
Upon his return to the U.S., Mano has to resume his original identity of Ajay.
Why does Ajay abandon his wife? Is he able to save Vidya? Does he return to his wife or does he stay with Vidya? If you care to know more, you may choose to watch the movie.
Unlike with most Tamil movies, 180 has a fair story. But it sounds more compelling as written above than the way it plays out in the movie.
Screenplay and amateurish direction kill the possibility of an engrossing drama. Instead, what we get is candy floss romance in the first half and a tearjerker in the second half with the occasional spotty humor.
Jayendra has adopted a back and forth narrative switching between flashbacks and the present to create an element of curiosity and then reveals parts of it in the flashback. What the movie lacks is the ability to keep the audience glued to the proceedings and empathize with the characters.
While the first half of 180 meanders aimlessly showing Mano doing odd jobs, the second half is boring and slow. The lead up to the climax suggests great ambivalence on the part of its makers on how to end the movie.
The film ends in Rio, which is another way of saying it went nowhere!
Characterizations and Performances
After watching Russell Crowe’s brilliant portrayal of John Nash in “The Beautiful Mind” last night for the 10th time, it’s difficult to describe anyone’s performance in 180 as even tolerable.
I parked brilliance aside and kept mediocrity as the benchmark when reviewing this movie and despite that I could not spot a memorable or even a credible performance.
Siddharth was so-so in parts.
Completely out of place in scenes that required expressions or emotions, he lacked the personality or body language remotely reflecting a doctor. Merely donning a coat and holding X-Rays against light does not hold water.
Both the leading ladies do not show an iota of acting talent. Neither of them (of whoever dubbed for them) were able to speak Tamil properly.
Nithya Menon as a photographer does not blend into that role. Again, holding a camera and clicking photos with a smile is not photography. Nithya looks pretty plump in some angles and her costumes are traditional.
Priya Anand, we are told, is an ambitious career woman but nothing even remotely related to her career is shown until we hear about her landing a big promotion. She passes off as a pretty dusky sexy maiden.
Priya’s costumes lend an element of sophistication and elegance to her appearance. I will watch out for her future films.
Mouli, a talented stage artiste, is wasted in an inconsequential role.
Logic and Commonsense – Two words that Tamil Indian film makers hate
While 180 marks Jayendra’s debut as a director, it is no excuse for shoddy logic or complete disrespect for the audience’s intelligence.
There are far too many ill-conceived scenes in 180 that irritate:
1. When Ajay/Mano comes to Chennai he asks a newspaper delivery boy in his pre-teens to help him find a rental accommodation. That boy finds him a place!
2. Vidya takes a few photos of child laborers and publishes one of them in her daily and it results in a 10 Lac. (1 mil.) Rupees donation to “News Paper Boys Foundation” and all the kids get free education. Is the lot of the have-nots that simple in India?
3. Vidya’s parents voice no objection to Ajay taking her to the U.S. for treatment after a life threatening accident. In fact, they don’t even accompany her.
4. The hospital in Chennai says that all their doctors are in a conference and cannot attend to a medical emergency. Ajay decides to take Vidya to San Francisco instead of inquiring at the 100 other hospitals in Chennai.
5. When one of the important characters in the movie is suspected to be dead, everyone including the Police accept it without much of an investigation. They don’t even bother to check immigration records and things like that even though the dead body is not found.
6. Tens of kids are allowed to come and bang on the ICU door in a hospital which has just one old guard for security.
If I had to nitpick:
7. Ajay is shown to be living in a ultra posh high rise condo in the heart of San Francisco but he drives a Kia, hardly the preferred car of the well-heeled.
8. Chennai and especially T. Nagar is shown as de-congested. While I wish this was true, we all know it is too good to be true.
9. Vidya stays with a room-mate. When she has an accident her parents show up in quick time.
From a movie like 180, one expects youthful and peppy music.
Alas, Sharreth delivers only weird Kerala drum beats remixed with western musical instruments resulting in cacophony.
The two songs that stay in the mind are “AJ” – for the irritated howls it created among the audience and “Rules Kidayathu” for the camera work.
What is good?
The director’s credentials as an ad film maker is established with some beautifully captured still / slow moving photography. The camera work is very pleasing and so are the colors in most of the frames.
Costumes for Priya Anand were well chosen and make her look sexy.
The movie is pretty boring but it did not provoke an extremely negative reaction in us the way Avan Ivan did.
If you absolutely have to watch a movie this weekend, prepare yourself for slim pickings in 180.