Too much masala, too little emotion

Too much masala, too little emotion
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Highlights

Among the many mythical fables which celebrate friendship, the one concerning Lord Krishna and Sudama (known also as Kuchela) is among the most enduring.

Among the many mythical fables which celebrate friendship, the one concerning Lord Krishna and Sudama (known also as Kuchela) is among the most enduring. Laced with the basic message that palhood knows no boundaries or distinctions based on class or cash, it is a favourite tale recalled fondly among Indian families.

A spin-off of this eternal hit story was what was attempted by M Mohanan in Malayalam in 2007 when he dished out the script of 'Katha Parayumpol' remade into two fellow languages Tamil (Kuselan) and Telugu (Kathanayakudu) a year later. Building on the trend of using a common pool of stars for the character roles with a top hero to bring in the initial draw, it had Rajinikanth playing a guest role while Jagapathi Babu and Meena came up with the other meatier parts.

The original film had a strong emotional connect, authentic rural ambience and the typical limitations which confront the inhabitants of such locations. The story of how a poor barber struggling to eke out a livelihood becomes the centerpiece of attention as he is a close childhood pal of the hero (whose film is being shot in the surrounding areas) was engaging. The desperation of the main character, Sreenivasan to meet the rising expectations of his family and neighbours to enable them meet the famous matinee idol also was very really portrayed.

In contrast, director P Vasu, an old-time favourite of the Superstar tweaked the script to allot commensurate screen time for the mass hero and disoriented the emotional pull of the plot to damage its appeal and its scope at the BO. It was a thundering crash for Rajinikanth who was high on the success of his earlier year's release 'Robot'. The public couldn't decide whether it was the hero's film or a film which celebrated his long- time friendship with Jagapathi Babu, who was boxed into a stereotyped role in the Telugu version. The comedy track too was tiring and did not jell well with the main narrative.

Quite often, one reads how directors in other languages make it a point to emphasise that they have 'nativised' the theme drawn from other sources to suit the viewing preferences of the local audience. At times, it backfires. This is precisely the reason why despite a reasonable level of expectations, this particular film did not work with the audience. Remade into Hindi with Priyadarshan directing it for the Shah Rukh Khan- backed production house, 'Billu Barber' had the smashing Irrfan Khan in the lead. It failed to appeal across the Vindhyas too, as there were controversies about its title, it was renamed as 'Billu', yet failed to score.

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