Cast: Vikram, Amy Jackson, Santhanam, Upen Patel
The only high point of Shankar's I (in Tamil) is Vikram's enthralling performance, first as a rustic body builder and later as a disfigured hunchback.
As the guy from the gutters who speaks slum Tamil and whose passion is confined to exhibiting his ripping muscles or ogling at the pictures of the sexy model Diya (British model-turned-largely Tamil actor, Amy Jackson), Vikram's Lingesan keeps us rivetted. His transformation from the uncouth to the suave - and later to the horrific figure covered in huge swellings - is done with an authenticity rare to come by in Tamil cinema.
But this alone is not enough to take us through a 189-minute romp of silly dances, sillier wit (Santhanam as the hero's sidekick has now become an irritating bore, but the actor does not seem to care about this) and stupid fight sequences (which are an endless pain).
And the film has unabashedly borrowed from Victor Hugo's 1831 Gothic novel, Hunchback of Notre-Dame and the traditional fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, without infusing any novelty into these age-old yarns.
Playing the Beauty, Jackson remains as unimpressively wooden as I first saw her in Madrassapattinam and Ek Deewana Tha - barring a couple of teary-eyed scenes in I. But yes, her appeal lies in the dare-bare costumes she sports, and this looks like a major point to draw front-benchers.
A top model, Diya, manages to clinch an advertising contract in China with Lingesan as her romantic partner - as a ploy to resist the come-to-my-bed advances of John (Upen Patel) with whom she had been sharing a lucrative professional stint.
In China, she pretends to love Lingesan to help him get over his old-world diffidence and make the campaign work. Lingesan flips for her all right and also turns into an epitome of style and success that gets five men - each with his own axe to grind - ragingly mad. And there is neither much of a story after this nor just about anything to guess. It gets all yawningly predictable.
Some picture postcards locales in virgin China (with titillating Diya) may be a ploy to get us into a sense of exhilaration, but images of burnt or electrocuted men are downright distasteful. And Santhanam's character ridiculing them is in sheer bad taste, or simply juvenile.