The problem with a period film like Baahubali is that it sets such a high benchmark, it becomes a point of reference for audience to validate every other film from similar genres. Director Chimbu Devan's Puli suffers the same fate. Even the presence of 'Ilayathalapathy' Vijay fails to save the film. Puli created quite a buzz in the film industry, with people drawing parallels with Baahubali in terms of visual effects and narration. But the fantasy-drama falls flat on its face and fails to evoke applause.
The director seemed to have had a dream about making a film set in a mythical India, overrun by supernatural human beings from an island. However, while converting his thoughts into a 154-minute screenplay, Chimbu clearly lost his grip over the idea and the film. He repeats the regressive formula of one hero who can't do anything wrong, two 'eye-candy' heroines and a dreaded villain. Add to that a popular yesteryear actor and you have the recipe for a commercial movie that panders to the mass audience. Or so Devan thought.
Puli was expected to be high on visual effects because of its budget. However, apart from a few colourful sequences the film's computer-generated imagery fails to amuse the audience. As far as performances are concerned, the film seems to be an ode to Vijay. The film's script is tailored with the age-old hero-worshipping narrative, making others look insignificant. The characters of Prabhu, Hansika Motwani, Shruti Hassan and Sridevi have suffered due to the wafer-thin script. Sudeep, manages to strike home as an evil and powerful army commander but again the weak script takes toll on his character, too. He loses in a fist-fight with the hero and begs for mercy at the end, undoing all the powerful perceptions he created onscreen as a villain.
Puli was also expected to give a solid comeback in Tamil for Sridevi after a gap of 29 years. She plays an evil queen of an oppressed nation and carries herself onscreen with grace. Her intimidating looks and gestures plays only to the gallery as her character lacks substance.
Above all, the film lays bare Vijay's interest in politics. He delivers way too many dialogues about politics and the government. In the last scene he even makes a speech that is nothing short of a political statement.
The film has an ageing character played by Thambi Ramiah for comical relief. He gets married to a beautiful and much younger girl and tries to elicit laughter by cribbing over circumstances that constantly prevents him from consummating his marriage. Very generic, right?
Meanwhile, the film is not a completely lousy attempt either. The film has a handful of visual effects and characters like a huge tortoise, which has wisdom in abundance, a one-eyed giant, a talking bird, a black cheetah and dwarfs that may click with children. All said, it is not even a complete children film, given that it has a few double-meaning remarks.
Devi Sri Prasad's music brings in some much-needed energy into the film and cinematography by Nataraja is another plus.
Overall, Puli is a directionless fantasy film with a few good aspects. It is a film for hard-core Vijay fans and children. If you don't belong to either category, think a better way of spending your weekend.
Director: Chimbu Devan
Cast: Vijay, Sridevi, Sudeep, Hansika Motwani, Shruti Hassan