24 Review: Tiresome Time Travel Tripe With Likeable Performance By Suriya

Starring: Suriya, Samantha, Nithya Menen

Directed by: Vikram Kumar

Movie Review: Be warned. This overblown over-baked  scifi-meets-mythology-meets-Ekta Kapoor saga of time-travel is strictly for Suriya aficionados.

As expected the actor is in full form here. Like Kamal Haasan, Suriya now threatens to become many sizes larger than his films. His recent films have either featured him in more than one role(Anjaan, 24) or as bombastic rhetoric-spewing unzippered  heroes with motor-mouthed dialogues that looked designed for Rajnikanth.

In 24(no relation to the Anil Kapoor series of that title) Suriya plays three roles. He isSethuraman an amiable scientist and his ‘watch mechanic’ (the term is used at least 34 times) son, and his evil twin brother Athreya who slays the scientist and his wife(NithyaMenon) in what could easily be  forsaken footage from a Tarantino film.

The sheer gruesomeness of Menon’s murder(is this a cursed appearance?)  should have served as a chilling precursor to Athreya’s ruthlessly evil designs. However his ensuing actions make him look more like a spoilt silly sibling than a super-villain who hankers to get his scientist-brother’s time-travel watch.

Ah, the watch! How time flies! In a quickly wrapped-up transition(belying the prolonged and protracted plot build-ups that follow) Sethuraman’s  son Mani grows up to be…well a citified version of Shiva(Prabhas) in Baahubali. The tiresome and over-cute relationship between Mani and his foster-mother(Saranya Ponvanan) seems to have been ripped off from Baahubali.

Before audiences drown in the milk of maternal kindness the narrative introduces Mani’s love  interest Sathya(Samantha Ruth Prabhu) . For the next half an hour and more of this extended ode to time-travel, time is wasted in flirtatious songs(Rahman’s tired genius reloaded)  and coy exchanges  done in that breathless tone that over-grown  heroes in Indian cinema adapt when they play Mama’s boys in love for the first time.

The film criminally squanders away precious time in corny courtship and tomfoolery. Worst still the magical time-defying wrist-watch that is the key to the film’s scientific-magic  Mr India-Meets-Ironman aspirations is reduced to a tacky gimmick for Mani to win over the girl.

Think of the irony of using H G Wells’ theory of time-travel to score dating points. It is as absurd as using the nucleur bomb to scare off your neighbour’s dog.

Regrettably 24 has more bark than bite. It sets out to change the way  Indian cinema looks at the sci-fi genre. Somewhere along the way it loses direction and becomes a sorry spoof of all the popular films on time-travel from Escape To The Future to Looper.

The narrative heft is reliant entirely on the post-interval confrontations between the evil (and now wheel chair-bound) Athreya and his nephew Mani.By this point in time the plot is looking straight into eyes of a mid-life crisis. Writer-director Vikram Kumar’s ambitious canvas is unmatched by a strong spine in the storytelling. The tension in the plot is substantially diminished by the writing’s zeal to be cleverer than the audience. Time games are played between the characters with some catastrophic  consequences to the narrative’s equilibrium.

The special effects and the visual dazzle are largely mediocre. Tirru’s cinematography seems awed by its own wizardry. Self-control is seriously absent .The action sequences are rugged but inconsistent. What holds this unwieldy saga together to some extent, is Suriya’s ebullient efforts to play the three characters at different scales.

Finally though Suriya and the film’s ambitions are defeated by the quality of the writing which at best is mediocre. Suriya deserves better.

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