Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Michael: Sandeep Kishan tries to break the curse but gangster film falls apart

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Amartya Smaran

Produced by Karan C Productions LLP and Sree Venkateswara Cinemas LLP, and directed by Ranjit Jeyakodi, Michael features Sundeep Kishan, Gautam Vasudev Menon, Varun Sandesh, Divyansha Kaushik, Vijay Sethupathi and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar in important roles. The film was simultaneously released in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi on Friday.

With erstwhile 1980s and ‘90s Bombay as its backdrop, the story revolves around Michael(Sundeep Kishan), who’s a loner and is fixated on the end goal of killing his father. Right from the onset, Michael’s ideals are made clear to the audience. In the opening sequence of the film, where the local vendor beats his woman for asking money to feed her kid, the angry young Michael who’s around the corner gets up, puts his plate down, washes his hands, goes straight to the store, and stabs the man. He grabs the cash from the counter and gives it to the woman. He says, “You shouldn’t beg for the things that belong to you. You should just take it.”

When the woman enquires in a loud tone, “What’s your name?”, the young Michael simply wears his “Walkman headset” and walks away. The evidently emotional woman says, “One day the whole world will notice you!”

The entire story is narrated from the perspective of Swamy (Ayyappa P. Sharma), who’s kidnapped by a rival gang. The narrative initially begins in the 80s and makes a quick transition into the 90s. For the most part, the film lingers in the 90s.

Gautam Vasudev Menon plays Gurunath, a powerful gangster. Gurunath is feared by every other gang in the city and he’s not the regular villain. He reads William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea in his free time. Young Michael grabs the attention of Gurunath and the gangster takes a liking to the kid’s attitude and agrees to help him kill his father. Years later, the grown-up Michael saves Gurunath’s life from the rival gangs. This makes their bond special and often brothers Gurunath’s wife and son.

Gurunath’s wife Charulatha(Anasuya) is a cunning woman who’s always worried about losing her spot and goes to any extent to keep her son Amarnath(Varun Sandesh) in contention for the throne. At one point, she burns down the house of a club singer for having an affair with Gurunath. Bonkers! Isn’t it?

Varun Sandesh hits it out of the park with this particular role. Everything about his performance is praiseworthy. He reminds us of Fredo Corleone from The Godfather (1972). He’s mentally weak, often giving in to the pleasures of life and he wants that approval from his stoic father. He’s caught up in this circle of proving his worth. In a nutshell, Amarnath is like the “Merchant of Venom!”.

The driving plot point occurs when Gurunath asks the grown-up Michael to kill the last of the six men involved in plotting against him. Michael sets off to Delhi to find the suspect. Here he meets Theera(Divyansha Kaushik) and everything goes downhill from there in Michael’s life. In his interaction with the media, Sundeep described the film as a romantic drama set in the evil world of gangsters. This hinders the narration and tests our patience. The film is a slow burn. It has its momentary highs but it keeps falling flat. It shines at one moment and slips away the very next moment. If romance was supposed to be the film’s main theme, the filmmaker certainly didn’t succeed in packing it well. All said, it leaves the audience wanting for more of that romance from the lead pair. Divyansha plays her part with great conviction.

The best thing about the film is its aesthetic value. Ranjit excels in getting the best out of cinematographer Kiran Koushik. The shots literally teleport you to the 90s. Each frame is pure gold. The orange-teal color palette looks fantastic on the big screen giving you a sense of visual cinematic brilliance. Editor R. Sathyanarayanan’s editing is crisp and he makes no mistake in spoiling the flow of the film. The music scored by Sam C.S. enhances the highs and covers up the low points in the film. Sundeep Kishan carries the film on his shoulders. He’s fit and looks the part and this has to be one of his best performances to date. Vijay Sethupathi and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar play a couple and make their entry in the second half. They do their usual thing with sheer perfection but the film would have been so much more enticing if their characters had more screen time.

Director Ranjit Jeyakodi shows his technical brilliance. The film is a visual spectacle in the neo-noir genre. Let me put it this way, you will think the film is aging like fine wine. The content is packed in a glossy-looking bottle. However, the wine tastes just fine and it doesn’t keep you buzzed for a long time either. Michael is a fantastic attempt by Sundeep Kishan to break his jinx at the box office but it is far from being the best film in the gangster genre.

Rating: 2.5/5

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