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I Movie Review


INDIA'S MOST OPULENT TAKE ON BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Rating: 4/5

STORY: A bodybuilder ends up falling madly in love with a supermodel, but some scheming villains maim him. Is he able to overcome his physical handicap and win back his love?

REVIEW: Lingesan (Vikram) is a bodybuilder from a small town in Tamil Nadu, who dreams of winning the Mr India title for bodybuilding. Besides dumbbells, his only other love is supermodel Diya (Amy Jackson).

Life throws up a pleasant surprise to our sweet little simpleton. After winning the Mr Tamil Nadu contest for his perfect physique, he bags plum modelling assignments. Lo and behold, Lingesan gets a chance to model with Diya. How does he land this windfall?
Well, the ruling male supermodel John (Upen Patel) is a chauvinistic pig. When Diya refuses to sleep with him, he threatens to blacklist her. But Diya outsmarts him - she befriends the local bodybuilder, rechristens him Lee and takes him to China on a commercial shoot. Further, she feigns love for him and turns the otherwise shy guy into a charismatic screen icon.

In his journey to fame and money, Lee makes more than a few enemies. An irate bodybuilder at his local gym, John - the model whose position he usurped, an egotistic advertising guru whom he offended with his principles, a gay makeup artiste whose advances he spurned - all of them want Lingesan dead.

This scheming quartet, along with a fifth guy (whose identity is suspense), takes revenge on Lee. They turn him into an unrecognizable ugly being (bearing an uncanny resemblance to Ephialtes from the Hollywood movie 300) in the hope that his life becomes a living hell. But, don't despair just yet; our hero also schemes to get back at those who stole his love and his looks.

Suspend your disbelief and get into this fairy tale that is told by Shankar (the maker of magnum opuses like Indian, Sivaji-The Boss and Enthiran) on a grandiose canvas. Shot mesmerisingly by PC Sreeram on virgin locales in China and India, with world class CG work, this spectacle works because at the core, it's a romantic-thriller told simplistically.

While the waif-like Amy looks mesmerising, Vikram bowls you over with a heart-wrenching performance whether he is handsome or disfigured. Santhanam provides the perfect comic relief. The first fight in a local gymnasium and the BMX bike fight on Chinese rooftops are an adrenaline fix. This is pure escapist fare but will resonate with those who read fairy tales at bedtime.


Spoiler alert! Please do not read the following plot summary if you have not seen the film, especially since the film is a crime thriller.

PLOT SUMMARY: 

Lingesan (Vikram), a deformed hunchback who was once a body builder and a handsome model, seeks revenge on another male model who is responsible for ruining his life.

His story unfolds in a small town in Tamil Nadu. Lingesan is the local body-building champion. He gets crowned Mr Tamil Nadu. He ends up angering another gym guy called Ravi. The two even break into a fight, where Lingesan beats him hands down. Ravi therefore vows revenge.

On the personal front, Lingesan's friend Babu (Santhanam) and his parents are aware that he is crazy about super-model Diya (Amy Jackson). In fact, they tease him because he buys all the products -- from sanitary napkins to ladies night-dresses just because Diya endorses them.

Lingesan, who lands small commercials for health products, one day, gets a chance to model with Diya. It so happens that Diya, who was earlier a hit pair with another super-model John (Upen Patel), is fed up of his flirtatious ways. She wants to get rid of John, so she befriends Lingesan and makes him her new ad-hero. The two of them travel to China to shoot for a perfume advertisement. Over there, they discover feelings for one another. While Lingesan actually admires Diya, she pretends to love him. After a small misunderstanding, they truly fall in love with one another. However, there is friction because a gay make-up artiste also falls in love with Lingesan, who is now called Lee.

When Lee refuses to reciprocate, the gay guy is annoyed. Back in India Lee becomes the reigning male super model and John wants to destroy him. An advertising boss also hates Lee because he is too honest and principled and refuses to do a soft-drink commercial for him (ad boss).

All the guys who hate Lee, with the help of a local doctor, inject him with the Influenza virus. This virus is so deadly that Lee starts to lose his hair and teeth. He also develops boils all over his body and becomes a hunchback. Since he is deformed, he distances himself from Diya though he had earlier promised to marry her. He is afraid of her rejection, especially since he is now a hunchback.

By a strange twist of fate, Lee is forced to kidnap Diya and take her to a hideout. Even while she is trying to figure out why this hunchback has kidnapped her, Lee keeps stepping out of his secret place and taking revenge on the men who made his life a living hell.

While trying to escape from the ugly deformed man's clutches, Diya discovers Lee's phone in his pocket. She then realises that the hunchback is actually Lingesan, her beau, who has been wrecked by the bad guys. She resolves to stick to her love and takes Lee with her to a beautiful home that they made together. Out there Diya slowly nurses him back to his original physical form and they live happily ever after.

(Do not proceed. Stop reading the plot summary right now if you don't want the crucial climax to be revealed) 

Spoiler ahead - (Climax) 

The doctor in the film, Vasudev (Suresh Gopi) who is Lee's benefactor is also the family doctor for Diya and her mother. This guy is two-faced; a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He is a pervert who is fantasizing about young Diya and hopes to marry her someday. While he doesn't let his secret feelings out till after the interval, he is the one who gives Lee the I (influenza) virus injection that makes him a deformed creature. The doctor is jealous because Lee and Diya are growing close. Of course, Lee takes revenge on all the five men who made his life a living hell, turn by turn. He sets the bodybuilder on fire; he ensures John is electrocuted in a fight on the train top; he mixes some hair-growing hormones in the gay make-up guy's beauty cream; he sets a beehive loose on the advertising guru after covering him with honey so that he gets stung; finally he injects the doctor with the same I virus and deforms him.

---------------------
2nd Review :-

OF HUNCHBACKS AND HAM


How does one find the heart to criticise a fairytale, or an ambitious extravaganza that attempts to redefine the contemporary fairytale?

Memories of my childhood are entrenched somewhere between cosy winter viewings of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Beauty And The Beast. Just a glimpse of a bestial underdog on screen makes me nostalgic, and remorseful that I must now analyse the power of enchantment.

Mr. Shankar, with his overwhelming interpretation of yet another saga of eternal vengeance and social inequality, ensures that my sentimentality remains intact. With I, he serves up three throbbing hours of an operatic musical--with a unique style that refuses to find firm footing between Victor Hugo and Michael Bay.

However, he first creates a world that enables everything from the ridiculous to the sublime, a universe where logic and subtlety proudly takes a backseat. You must not question the flimsiness of this make-believe world, just as you do not question Superman's underwear fetish. What I'm about to write may not come across as words written with a sober hand, but believe me, it's the film's fault.

A deformed bodybuilder (Vikram) named Lingesan (a.k.a Lee) sets out to "more than kill" off his enemies--a rival bodybuilder, a raging transsexual makeup artist, an ad film hero and a corrupt CEO -- a bunch of assorted caricatures responsible for his ghastly transformation. In between, he reminisces about how his story went from rags-to-riches to princess-and-frog.

His sole ambition is to execute a series of gory accidents on their living bodies, perversely imaginative sequences that put the Final Destination and Saw series to shame. All this while he holds hostage the woman of his dreams, the queen of ad hoardings Diya (Jackson; extinguishes the nightmare of Ekk Deewana Tha). Their song sequences, I must admit, are almost more entertaining than the film: One where Lee fantasizes about Diya morphing into the human form of appliances (cellphones, bikes, television sets), another in which he is a pining werewolf on a Gothic set. I kid you not.

The plot is shrouded in a very visible cloak of heavy-handed fiction (calling it Sci-fi would be stretching it), as boundless imagination is interspersed with formulaic humour, as gorgeous imagery is followed by inevitable outbreaks of conscience and forced logic. Shankar still manages to stay loyal to the traditional good-versus-evil template in its most simplistic form: Villains smoke cigarettes, and heroes do not. I've rarely seen a darker hero, if one can call him that; a morally ambiguous and wronged creature obsessed with revenge. Vikram is spellbinding, whether in a sausage-fest of a bodybuilding competition, or as a hunchback lurking the streets with menace. The last time a superstar took such a leap of faith, shedding all inhibitions, was Amitabh Bachchan in Paa.

I is anything but uninventive car-smashing, doppelganger-farting Bollywood fare. Shankar's brand of escapism usually clocks Thalaivaa on a scale of 1 to Tim Burton, but this is an adrenalinfueled and, hopefully, permanent step up for him.

It is no coincidence that one of his protagonists was a cartoonist (Anil Kapoor in Nayak). Shankar's films are merely extensions of those mischievous sketches. And as we know, the pen is at its mightiest in a cartoonist's hands.
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