Commercial cinema in India is a tricky issue, especially so in Tamil and Telugu where directors need to tread a path wherein they need to balance their storytelling and pander to fans. While Vijay has been consistently among the most popular stars in Tamil cinema, with a solid mass fan following, Nelson on the other hand is a director who is known for dark comedy, a genre which has not been explored much in Tamil cinema. I was looking forward for this combination, expecting something exciting to emerge out of it.
The film begins with Veeraraghavan played by Vijay a R&AW agent in P.O.K on a mission. Like a James Bond film we have an introductory fight scene and it is a delight to see hand to hand combat, with Vijay going on a killing spree. By the end of the mission we know that Veera has blood on his hands.
Fast forward to nearly a year later, we see that Vijay is undergoing treatment for depression and is guilt ridden. Come to think of it, even 5 years ago it would have been impossible to show our hero with mental health problem in a commercial film.
After a mandatory song and dance and few comic situations we see Vijay is trapped inside a mall which has been hijacked by some Pakistani terrorists. Their demand being to release the terrorist who was captured by Veera 11 months ago. The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game between Vijay and the terrorists and how he rescues the hostages.
Nelson’s films always have characters which have certain quirks and situations arising out of them makes it interesting, this is where he falters here. First of all among all the characters only VTV Ganesh adds the momentum to the story. Yogi Baba who was a hoot in Nelson’s previous film Doctor is underwhelming here and it becomes cringe worthy when the jokes are cracked about his body, we expect Nelson to come up with more intelligent stuff.
Plot wise this is a wafer thin plot, in such scenarios it is the treatment by the director which matters. Here Nelson succeeds to the some extent. This happens in the “Red Box” scene in the second half where all characters come, this is a Nelson trademark to make us laugh at situations where in we might not laugh in our real life.
Selvaraghavan as Altaf nails down his role and adds the zing to the film, which the other characters do not. The one character which does not work well is that of Home Minister, we do not know if the character is supposed to be a caricature or a sinister villain.
Shine Tom Chacko as one of the terrorists is wasted and add to that his horrible Hindi dubbing. Pooja Hegde is the weakest female character written by Nelson so far and it is surprising coming from Nelson who has displayed a lot of respect for his female leads in his previous films.
Despite such shortcomings, Nelson excels in some parts.
Minor Spoilers ahead
The film begins with a death of child, for which Vijay is also responsible. It would have been unimagineable if you ask me even two years ago. This shows how far Vijay is willing to experiment. An old lady is bumped off by terrorist, it is like Nelson is going against all the rules of a superstar film.
Minor Spoilers end
Even when the hostage crisis unfolds we do not see Vijay in rescue mode. He is happy to be a wallflower and escape from the mall. Despite being a former RA&W operative, Veera does not go on and on about Nation, and neither does Altaf. Both of them know, it is a game of cat and mouse between the good guys and bad guys and with deep mistrust on the government and representatives. Even when the terrorists are killed, there is no high moral ground taken by Veera. They are men who are doing their duty.
It can only be someone like Nelson who can think of a midget as a dreaded terrorist, these are some of the scenes where Nelson’s trademarks works for us. Nelson wants to give us an actioner and he does that elegantly. There is thankfully no unwanted melodrama, songs or call for duty scenes. Take for Instance Vijay who claims to be Bangladeshi and does not want Pakistani terrorist to be freed. Or when Selvaraghvhan says 200 is less number to release a terrorists, it is funny and poignant that how sometimes we think of tragedy as a less because we look at everything from prism of numbers.
It is fun to see Vijay going bonkers with gun, wearing sunglasses and driving a Mini Cooper and flying a Sukhoi. Nelson sets the film in Pakistan and makes Vijay talk in Tamil and gives a cool line about how he cannot talk Hindi, I guess the language they want to refer was Urdu nevertheless it is a cool line.
Beast is a pure action adventure plus swag which rests on the shoulders of Vijay and boy he does deliver.