Murugadoss's answer to his big Diwali rival, Anubhav Sinha's faux-programmed videogame-y super-hero outing
, is pretty interesting, while being spoken in a similar language of fantasy. Stick to the basics, and never misuse your lead actor, however big a superstar he may be. And while you're at it, sell desi
real hard and bash our enemies up (if 7th Sense is any indication, the Chinese are the new Pakistanis in our cinema).
7th Sense (no, there's no explanation of why it is named that) is part socio-fantasy, part science fiction, part period and part standard-issue masala, which primarily features great work by cinematographer Ravi K Chandran, simple but edge-of-the-seat thrills, and Suriya. Sure, the purists might want to analyze and criticize, but if you're in for some fun, keep the brains out.
First the visuals. Murugadoss strategically uses his first 25 minutes with an account of Buddhist monk (and former Pallava ruler) Bodhidharma, who settled in China, treated strange diseases there, and taught the Chinese to defend themselves with exotic martial arts. This little piece of history is presented with mesmerizing effect, and these larger-than-life, operatic frames help you set your standards for what is to follow.
The rest of the movie has a fairly predictable plot, but those standards - both in presentation and in story-telling - keep you hooked. Arvind (Suriya) is a circus artiste, who falls in love with a genetic researcher Subha (Shruti Haasan).
From the Chinese govenmen**'s (for some reason, they keep beeping the word "government") evil plans to launch a bio-war in India, to a secret Indian genetic engineering experiment to bring Bodhidharma's DNA back to life so that the Chinese can be defeated, Murugadoss wants to make this phenomenal.
He mostly gets it right. Whether it is the very filmi hero-heroine bonding, the little doses of intrigue at every step in this simple black-and-white mystery thriller, or the artistically choreographed action sequences, 7th Sense is pretty engaging cinema. There's also a small Avatar
-esque lab scene in here somewhere, and it is clear where the film's aspirations lie.
In particular, the villain, Dong-Lee (played by Johnny Tri Nguyen, who really didn't need to do anything by way of acting except stare menacingly), is chilling enough to make you empathize with the research do-gooders (Subha and team), however far-fetched their scientific babble may sound. Dong-Lee can hypnotize anyone to do anything
, and this Terminator-like omnipotency, mixed with his extremely evil intentions, makes him one hell of a comic book villain. Ghajini's
Ghajini sure has a competitor now.
What doesn't strike as right is the film's overzealous need to keep talking about how Indian culture, science and texts are superior to everything else in the world. The patriotism is well-intentioned, but Shruti Haasan mouthing such dated jingoism just seems to tickle audiences into unwarranted laughs.
There's also the issue of logic. For example, Arvind is far more intellectually capable than you would expect a circus performer to be. Also, when Dong-Lee is clearly walking around wrecking havoc, however silently, how is an entire police establishment unable to do anything about it? And foremost, the premise of the DNA research requires you to be completely naive about science and technology.
Suriya is having fun, while never overshadowing the script. In fact, there are periods when the story/action/drama completely takes over and the man has to simply hang around in the background. He's apt both as Bodhidharma and as Arvind, but probably needed a better stylist for Arvind.
The Harris Jayraj - Suriya - Murugadoss combination, meanwhile, works in creating, with clinical precision, an enchanting romance. When Arvind starts getting smitten by Subha, you realize that the actress in question could have been just anybody - it is the man's version of the romance that is portrayed here, to gratifying effect.
Shruti Haasan shows both talent and promise, but you're still too constantly distracted by her resemblance to her parents to notice her as a real, independent performer on screen.
Overall, 7th Sense is a fulfilling time at the cinemas this Diwali, and if you've booked tickets to it, you can officially snigger at your neighbour's free Ra.One passes.