Director: Shakti Soundar Rajan
Cast: Sibiraj, Idoh (the dog), Arundhati
Storyline: A cop, with the help of his dog, tries to rescue his abducted wife
It is said that hindsight is always good, an advice that the makers of ‘Naaigal Jaakirathai’ seem to have taken particularly seriously. They seem to go back 25 years to the year 1989 when K-9, a Hollywood film about a police detective who attempts to solve crime with his new partner, a German shepherd dog, was released. To use a word that’s quite popular in the film industry, ‘Naaigal’ has a few ‘inspirations’. The hero’s lover, just like in that film, is unhappy about his police work. In fact, so unhappy is she in this film that when she sees Karthik (Sibiraj) returning with gunshot wounds, she decides to pack her bags in anger. Overreaction, anybody?
Another ‘inspiration’ is how the police dog, despite being trained, shames its owner with its initial disobedience but goes on to prove invaluable. There’s also the development where Karthik’s lover is abducted by the villain, an epitome of evil. In fact, there’s even the bit when our male dog cavorts with a female dog, something that the latter’s owner (Mayilsamy) isn’t happy about at all.
However, despite these inspirations, there are quite a few genuinely enjoyable moments in the first half of the film, one in which it hasn’t yet stepped into hero-has-to-rescue-heroine territory. During this period, his girlfriend is hardly around, and he has no lofty ambition to live up to. It’s a welcome relief to have a Tamil film hero who has all the time in the world to bond with a dog. As Karthik lies sprawled, drunk as a skunk, the television plays an old Sivaji Ganesan song — ‘Kudi Magane’. When he wakes up, Karthik’s sister sees him roll on the floor and scratch his ear in much the same way that Mani (Idoh, the Belgian shepherd) does. Later, when the dog mates with a female in the car, a set of paws slide down the window pane in pleasure à la Kate Winslet in Titanic. There’s even a cute reference to a popular director’s interview that recently went viral. These are all quite entertaining, and you hope, desperately pray even, that the movie’s tone remains the same, even if the story cannot remain contained to the duo. The joy of watching the camera circle around a dog in obeisance, a treatment that is usually only reserved for established heroes, has to be experienced to be understood.
Alas, good things come to an end, and here, they come to a rather premature end when Karthik’s wife is abducted by the villain, played by Balaji Venugopal, whose dialogue delivery reminds you a lot of Jeevan in ‘Kaakha Kaakha’. In fact, his motivations and plans are pretty similar too. It’s the all-too-familiar plot of a villain who abducts an inspector’s wife to exercise revenge. Films such as ‘Kaakha Kaakha’ and ‘Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu’ have already indulged in this very premise. On a side note, you don’t envy policemen their marriage prospects at all, thanks to these movies. In fact, the villain’s modus operandi here is to bury women alive in a webcam-attached coffin and let them suffocate to death over several hours, as he watches from his computer and sips coffee. A faint visual of Uma Thurman punching her way out of her coffin (Kill Bill 2) comes to your mind. And sure as clockwork, a similar scene plays in this film too.
You have to wonder if there has been one Tamil film in the last decade or two that has limited itself to just being a warm tale of a family and their pets: something like ‘Marley and Me’. You wouldn’t perhaps begrudge the makers their ‘influences’ if the result was a film we generally don’t see a lot of, but ‘Naaigal’ reneges on the promise of its first portions. Oh, and about the opening scene when the dog becomes Karthik’s responsibility, after the death of its owner, and the climax… have you watched Turner and Hooch, a film that ironically was made again in 1989?