Cast: Jai, Surabhi, Karunas
Manimaran’s Pugazh (Fame) may be based on an actual incident which took place at Wallajabad, near Chennai, a few years ago, but the film totters on a weak screenplay that tries to hold audience attention through the superhuman antics of the hero, played though by a wooden Jai -- and nothing new about this. He has always been irritatingly un-expressive.
Jai essaying the title role, Pugazh, is the town’s darling boy, who can also turn into a daredevil when someone tries to grab the playground, the only open piece of land that holds the distinction of having hosted a cricket match during the Raj and which has come to be accepted in the course of time as public land that the locals use for sports and recreation.
But as is so well known in India, public grounds have been disappearing -- mostly into the tummies of land sharks -- much like forests which are being plundered of their wood and river beds and sea-shores of their sand.
So, when a rich industrialist in connivance with a minister tries to usurp the playground, Pugazh and his many friends -- who have all grown up playing on it -- rise in revolt that leads to murder and mayhem. A local chairman of the municipal corporation -- also hand-in-glove with the land mafia -- thinks of a wily ploy to get one of Pugazh’s friends elected as a councillor in the local elections. Tempted with huge money, the friend finds himself trapped between childhood loyalties and an easy way out of the financial mess he has got into.
Sadly, the movie ceases to tread a focussed path -- often wandering without purpose. It begins with Pugazh and his team winning a cricket match on the playground, and they travel to Puducherry (Pondicherry) to celebrate with a song and dance on the beach -- which kind of transforms into a Baywatch locale with bikini-clad foreign women parading up and down.
Watch the trailer of Pugazh here:
Another needless distraction is the romance between Pugazh and Bhuvaneswari (Surabhi) that is not just juvenile but also contrived -- like the beach scene. A lazy way of trying to seduce footfalls.
Obviously, the film begins to look and sound disjointed with several scenes not fitting into the puzzle. To top it all, Pugazh’s superman avatar at the end -- when he vanquishes at least 25 sickle-waving men all by himself on the playground -- is as good as ill-conceived fantasy.
Yes, indeed, the salvation comes in the form of Karunas, who as the older brother of Pugazh and a simple flower merchant, is fantastic as the man torn between his love for his sibling and that for the playground, a fight over which can only mean blood and gore and death. Is he game for that?