Rakshasudu is the dubbed version of the Tamil film "Mass". The hero (Suriya) is called Mass throughout the movie. Just in case you miss that, they remind you by plastering the word "Mass" all over the screen a hundred times in the first fifteen minutes. The title track blares out the word "Mass" with alarming frequency. The soundtrack features a track called, well, you know - "Mass Theme". With all this obsession over the word Mass, it felt reasonable to expect a true "mass" movie.
Rakshasudu isn't that movie. We aren't saying Suriya got shortchanged. He is in fine form here. Stylish, sincere, fluidly mobile, meticulously toned, and endearingly expressive. His character offers him enough material to work with and he makes use of the same. It is just that this material is not what Mass Cinema is made of.
Suriya plays a conman called Massu (short for Madhusudan) who gallivants with sibling-like close friend Jettu (Premgi Amaren). One of their cons goes wrong and lands them in trouble with local bigwig Reddy. In the process of evading Reddy's men, they meet with a life-threatening accident. Massu almost meets his maker but manages to survive. He wakes up in a hospital soon to realise he now has a new power. He can see ghosts of dead people that haunt the earth looking to fulfill their life's wishes despite not having the material means to do so.
This is a good turn for the story. Generic context establishment finally gives way to more engaging happenings. The movie takes up the currently popular horror-comedy genre. There are also a couple of murders and one botched-up heist before the film finally tackles its true purpose - drama.
Rakshasudu comes with a dense story with frequent payoffs. And while there are too many contrivances, you do feel engaged enough to forgive them. All of that implies good work in one department - writing. Venkat Prabhu (also the director) comes up with fascinating ideas. The story is considerably inventive and he also cooks up interesting ways to narrate it. Take the part where Massu begins to see ghosts and spirits. Prabhu gives you a stretch where Suriya is initially petrified. He and Premgi both feel genuinely desperate, and it takes a fine moment of writing to get the hero to come to terms with his new power. This isn't exactly necessary to the plot, but it contributes so much to your interest in the movie.
There are many of these imaginative and/or carefully written scenes throughout Rakshasudu. You get most of them although some are lost in translation (the Tamil local jokes for instance). However, the biggest gripe you'd have against Venkat Prabhu and the movie in general is the seeming disinterest in execution. Prabhu is by no means an incompetent director. This is evident in how he gets you to feel the sense of urgency when he chooses to (it helps that he is aided by a seasoned editor). However, there is still something offhanded about his films. It is like listening to a talented musician who doesn't practice much. You get a sense of what they're capable of but it just doesn't sound right.
Poorly rendered CGI zombies, an almost unnecessary love track (to Nayantara's credit, she looks positively angelic in her full sleeved salwar kameezes - you just wish she had something else to do, too), a very repetitive Premgi (Prabhu's brother who features in every one of his movies), casually handled timelines, inconsistent spirit physics - we have a long list of niggles. But with a tight script, Suriya's charisma, some strong performances (watch out for Parthiban), a peppy sound track, and a casual craziness sprinkled through the movie, Rakshasudu is rather entertaining.
A motif in Rakshasudu is that human spirits may leave their material bodies but they don't leave the world entirely if their lives end without adequate closure. We wonder about ideas and movies. Are we surrounded by great ideas or stories waiting in agony for good execution? Is Venkat Prabhu's mind filled with such ghosts?