Genre: Western comedy
Director: Deeraj Vaidy
Cast: Siddharth, Avinash Raghudevan, Sananth Reddy & Radha Ravi
Honest declaration here: I haven’t watched enough Tamil movies to comment on this movie from a seasoned perspective. However, as someone who enjoys watching an international array of films, I found a lot of artistic elements in this film which make it a unique and novel attempt at movie making – something not prevalent in the current range of popular Tamil movies.
What I Liked
Let’s start with the title “Jil Jung Juk” (JJJ), which apparently translates into The Good, The Average, The Unworthy. If this isn’t a hat-tip to the “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” then I don’t know what is. Yes, some people say it’s based on how Vadivelu rated women, but how does that even make sense? A modern day, psuedo-western comedy with three men struggling to complete a menial task while sending out the larger message of “live by the gun, die by the gun” is definitely sending out a nod to the western movie that is the grand-daddy of them all.
Then comes the gorgeous colour palette of pink, blue and yellow which seems inspired by artistic movies like “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain“, the story of a lonely, and shy waitress in Paris whose story seems perpetually tinted with a hue of nostalgia, as the movie proceeds frame-after-fame dipped in warm yellows and reds. The same idea of using colour to impact our perceptions is clearly visible in JJJ, as blues, pinks and yellows zing around in hair colour, butterflies, cars, neon lights in seedy bars, and angry yellow explosions against a rose-tinted blue sky. The colours electrify each scene, creating a vibe of expectancy with each new twist in the plot. I personally haven’t seen the use of colour in this manner to energise a movie before in Tamil cinema; it’s always been dark colours or bright colours, but I haven’t seen colour tinting as a mode of communication before, and that was rather impressive.
I have to add that the insertion of graphics into the movie was something that I really enjoyed. Instead of being weaved into special effects, computer graphics were used instead to provide an almost interactive, “insider-joke” view into the movie. They helped in keeping the movie light and playful, while adding to the colourful and vibrant landscape of the story. I wouldn’t recommend it in every movie, for sure, but I felt it worked well with the quirky characters and funny story-line of the movie – so thumbs up for that!
What I Did Not Like
The thing about making an avant garde film is to be careful about being consistent with a certain style. To me the problem with JJJ was that it didn’t maintain the story-telling in any particular artform. For example, the comedy would sometimes reach a thought-through and witty crescendo and would be immediately followed by slapstick mishaps which didn’t allow the full appreciation of either (like the scene with the “Ugandan” drug lord). Another example is the song Red Roadu. While itself quirky and fun, it did not require the side-bar effects of the character faces and the random insertion of Yennai Arindhaal, both of which totally drew the attention away from the song and seemed to provide no additional purpose to the story apart from simply being there.
The introduction of the characters was another clever attempt as well, in having the voice-over by an amused, formless voice, as seen in other movies like “The Royal Tenebaums“. The voice-over in cinema serves many purposes. It can be used to create the effect of story-telling by an omniscient narrator. Sometimes it is used to create continuity in a story requiring background information between scenes, and most commonly in comedy, it has been usually used to create an ironic counterpoint. Unfortunately for JJJ, the voice-over was first in Jil’s voice, and then switched to a random narrator, and then completely disappeared from the movie without completing the joke. So while this was a clever idea that certainly aided the flow of audience comprehension, it did leave me wondering why the voice-over had a perpetually sarcastic edge to its tone, while I found nothing ironic, other than the Rolex-Roxel paradox, emerging from the movie.
It felt like Deeraj Vaidy and Mohan Ramakrishnan took on a project to do something different with artistic elements inferred from international cinema, and they were successful, but only to an extent. The story itself had so much going on, that it became difficult to appreciate the artistry of the movie as well. While some movies like “Panchathanthiram“ have been able to successfully integrate similar types of comedic patterns into the storyline, weaving in and out of logical humour and slapstick comedy, it is important to note that their cinematography and visual effects were not artistic or complex, thereby allowing the comedy to be highlighted to the forefront. This, in my opinion, was difficult to achieve in JJJ.
On The Overall
I felt that JJJ was a unique experiment in cinematography art that has not really been explored in Tamil cinema previously. While there is definite room for improvement, as well as a need to focus on a single kind of artistic presentation, seeing the efforts of the entire cast and crew in coming up with something so different is a treat in itself. The film promised to be something different in its trailers, and it definitely was!