Beware: There may be occasional spoilers! I’ll try not to give the movie away, but no promises.

I spent a fair bit of time trying to write this review, but the words came in fits and starts and the thoughts were a bit too disjointed. So I’m just going to dump them here.

Let me get this out of the way first: 3 deserves attention on its own terms, and not as a film made by Rajnikanth’s daughter starring his son-in-law and Kamalhassan’s daughter. This is not a safe movie that cashes in on the popularity of an actor at the height of his powers, or on the inevitable associations their DNA evokes. Nor for that matter is it the movie you imagined when you heard Why this Kolaveri di for the umpteenth time. Not that it is without its flaws, but as debuts go, this is fairly impressive.

And no, in case you’re wondering, the way Kolaveri is staged in the film doesn’t work. Had this been the video that people had seen, there is no way in hell the song would’ve gone viral.

Structurally, the movie seems sort of bipolar. While the nonlinear narrative ensures that you are always aware of the impending tragedy, the first half is mostly sweetness and light. The second half, in contrast, is unrelentingly serious. It’s an interesting structural choice — very meta.

Much of the screen time in the first half is spent with the camera focused on Shruti Hassan’s face, waiting for her to smile. And let’s face it, the woman looks gorgeous when she does. Watch her facial expression just after she tells Dhanush that she loves him — it’s rare that movies actually show that sense of wonder.

In contrast, a significant fraction of time in the second half is spent watching her cry. And while I allow that this may be how she cries in real life, it somehow doesn’t work on screen. Go figure.

What sells the second half, even when the writing isn’t stellar at times, is Dhanush. Has the man become the most versatile actor of his generation?

Solid supporting cast in a film with a very small set of characters. Can’t think of a single weak link.

I think of Prabhu these days like I think of Rishi Kapoor. Not the most impressive of heroes even in his prime (and don’t even get me started on Budget Padmanabhan and the like), but much more watchable today as the benevolent elder on the scene. (Not that I can imagine him doing a Rauf Lala yet, but you get what I mean.)

You know, I didn’t expect Dhanush and Shruti to be convincing as school kids — or as a screen couple for that matter — but they managed it. Without getting all steamy, they conveyed a degree of physical comfort with each other that really made the more intimate scenes work.

While on that topic, can you trademark a kiss?


8 thoughts on “3

  1. As much as I liked the first half, the whole sweet teen love captured perfectly(quite well performed too), I couldn’t get myself to like the bi-polar narrative as you call it in this case. Felt like she really wanted to make two different films. I don’t have ideas but considering the first half finesse, wish she had not touched Selvaraghavan territory!

    • I think it was a case of wanting to make the second half and ending up making a brilliant lead up to it along the way. I think she had the right intention — tell a love story that works, so that the tragedy hits you hard. Except, only half the strategy was executed well.

      Remember the scene in Chasing Amy where Holden says that you write your first book not because you want to write a book, but because you’ve found a story you absolutely want to tell? I think Aishwarya Dhanush wanted to tell this story — she just didn’t figure it all out.

      I also wondered why Dhanush would do two similar movies in a row, but then realized that a) a wise husband doesn’t argue when his wife tells him to do something, and b) the alternative might have been to do something like Vengai in between the two movies 😀

      • S says:

        Hey Vengai wasn’t bad. 🙂 But seriously, I quite like the Tamannah-Dhanush pairing (think you had some nice things to say about her in Padikkadhavan too).

  2. S says:

    Ramsu, I finally saw “3” on DVD yesterday. You’re right, Dhanush and Shruti are unexpectedly convincing as school kids and more surprisingly as a screen couple. “Without getting all steamy, they conveyed a degree of physical comfort with each other that really made the more intimate scenes work.” Completely agree (though I secretly suspect this may have been a case of a wise husband not wanting to argue when his wife directs him thus: “thou shalt do unto my heroine as you would do unto me”).

    What I did NOT find convincing was them being two students in love. If they’d merely been classmates/neighbors who grew up together, who parted ways and met again (in college) and fell in love, I’d have bought it. (But I guess that would’ve been a different film.) The interactions of their younger selves leading up to the “I love you” came off as a mere crush/infatuation type thing and not something that would stand the test of time / abnormal mental condition.

    Maybe that’s what ultimately becomes evident when he does not trust her love enough to tide them thru his illness. When he says to Senthil that she wouldn’t be able to handle it, he also adds that he does not want her to fear/loathe him or to now view him thru the lens of his disease. He brushes aside his friend’s counsel to tell-all, and kinda loses trust in the unconditionality of his wife’s love for him. Understandable as that is from his PoV, I guess that’s also the beginning of his end.

    I wish that aspect was highlighted more. The whole “supportive family” angle was brushed aside altogether (I mean he’s shown as having a great relationship with Prabhu and Bhanupriya… why couldn’t he have leaned on them, or his friend have enlisted their help, for that matter? I felt the second half was pretty badly directed. Dhanush was clearly slipping away and Shruti’s main concern was her dry spell! For that scene to have worked marvelously, we should’ve been shown at first some classic husband-wife moments together that did not involve sex. At least that’s what I felt at that instant…that the director did not bother to build enough scenes involving them going thru the “married couple” experience for us to care about their sex life more than superficially.

    To me, they simply didn’t seem “in love” enough, which is perhaps why you too had felt her hysterical tears didn’t seem authentic enough within the circumstances of the film? In this hardcore message movie — “Bipolar is curable,” “psychiatric treatment is necessary” — wish they’d also folded in the message, “thou shalt not mistake infatuation for love”.

    • S says:

      Actually, I would change my last line to say “thou shalt not mistake infatuation/obsession for love” because (in the early stages) he was clearly obsessed with her while she seemed highly infatuated with him (given her somewhat sheltered upbringing up until the time he comes into her life). They both should’ve taken a time out, she should’ve gone to pursue her studies in the U.S and he should have waited it out (bad move on her part to burn the passport and bury her parent’s hopes and dreams over a relationship which, if meant to be, will be, no matter what. I simply couldn’t fathom someone of her temperament acting as irrationally as she did (and she wasn’t even the one with the bipolar thing). It felt like Aishwarya was the “actual” bipolar person in the whole film… haunted by hologram-demons of Selvaraghavan (weird subconscious connection there, with bro-in-law) threatening her to splice in bits from Mayakkam Enna, whether or not they belonged in this film.

  3. S>> I don’t think, as far as their romance was concerned, that what we saw is all there was to it. True, she focused on the early stages of the relationship a lot more than on how it evolved afterwards, but by the time they got married, they came across quite credibly as a couple in love to me. In her place, I might not have burned my passport up (given how much pain value there is in getting one of those in the first place), but I am not concerned so much with whether her decisions are sensible/desirable, as much as with whether they are plausible. And in this particular case, I think they are.

    Having said that, the second half did have some problematic moments where I couldn’t understand the decisions he or his friend made. Shruti’s bewilderment is written in a believable manner, though — her first complaint is that he is withdrawing from her and spending a lot more time with the friend, and her complaint about their sex life comes only later. Given how physically expressive and intimate they have been over the years, it is natural that a change in that department would strike her as odd. Her acting is not yet where it needs to be, though.

    As an aside, I have found that I am a bit more tolerant of implausibility when I am watching a movie in a theatre. Had I watched this one on DVD at home, I might well have reacted similarly.

    Oh, and I actually liked the hologram thing — creepy but effective.

  4. S says:

    Ramsu, (namakulla thanks-laam edhuku naalum) thank you for humoring me/engaging with me on this topic. I was feeling a bit frustrated after watching “3”. Mainly because, overall, I really liked Dhanush and Shruti in it and desperately wanted the film, in its entirety, to work for me. There were many nice moments, no doubt, and I had no problems with Shruti’s acting — even that hysterical crying worked for me, particularly how she tries to kiss the air and then breaks down in desperation, having tried in vain to relive the many kisses they likely shared that they are unlikely to share again.

    So yes, I agree with you that they certainly were depicted as this physically expressive and intimate couple early on). But the problem (at least for me) was the whole schizophrenic-ness (to pick on bipolar’s first cousin!) of the storytelling, particularly the jumping around in delusion la-la land WITHOUT building enough “couple moments” in the second half that would make me care about what happens to them, make me believe that they are on each others minds every minute of the day. Maybe send him off on a trip abroad to manage his father business, and show her trying to cope with his (temporary) absence, trying to fish out his unwashed t-shirt from the laundry basket and taking it to bed with her because (a) she misses his smell so much (b) she can’t bear to be alone … You know, things like that maybe worked in as a montage during a song would have done it for me.

    Perhaps, like you say, watching it on DVD does make one a more finicky audience than a more forgiving theater-goer (I rarely watch Tamil films in theater, btw — think Virumaandi in ’04 was the last). I’m also able to agree when you explain that there was likely more to the romance than what was shown on screen (isn’t there always? I realize it’s counterproductive to cram EVERY drawn-out detail of a couple’s romantic life into a 2-hour film…because you KNOW it will then become this bloated 4-hour beast on your hands that you’ll have to painstakingly (but more often, painfully) hack away at, to extract 2 hours of narrative meat. Loss of (sometimes crucial) detail is imminent in time-bound storytelling — I get that. And am happy to have my imagination tide me thru that loss).

    Having said that, I do WISH that a wee bit more was done to establish their “married moments”… because a bond between a husband and wife can be very very different (and beautiful, in its own way) than the one between lovers…yes, EVEN though it’s the lovers here who have turned husband and wife. I felt a bit cheated that bond wasn’t established in a little more coherent (or should I say “cohesive”?…er, “Covalent”? lol) manner in this particular movie.

    PS: Oh yeah, hologram = creepy but effective… in fact way more effective than any of Selva’s earlier films involving CGI (and oh yeah, I’m sticking with the theory that Selva ghost-directed the heck out of this thing).

  5. S says:

    Ramsu, I was searching to see if you’d written about Aadukalam (which I’d only just watched for the first time) and realized the number of Dhanush posts on your blog = 3 (and doesn’t include said movie). 😊

    Anyhow, I was happy to arrive here if only to get validation for an observation on your OK Kanmani post…that it’s probably much easier to forgive (or overlook) implausibility when watching on the big screen.

    Coming back to this Award Winning Dhanush movie (where too one bleeds for love), I just wanted to call attention to the “cock vutting” scene which made me grin with glee. http://youtu.be/U7y-OjxVG-I

    Thanks for humoring me.

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