This may come as a surprise to most of you, but I’m pretty much a nerd.
Alright, fine. It’s not that big of a surprise.
I adore the sci-fi and fantasy genre. I usually crave the systematic and made-up details that explain how each gadget or process came to be, whether it be the specific words to a spell in a magical world or how an advanced computer is calibrated in a futuristic setting. I actually look for the accuracy of mathematical formulas when I see them being used in film or TV, and try to solve the unsolvable equation right alongside the fictional beautiful minds on screen (most often failing, but trying nonetheless). Or, at the very least, I remember the details from the start of a complex story till the end, and work to stick all the puzzle pieces together throughout, hoping that the writers have thought about things with as much specificity as I am throughout the film.
But I think we can all agree that being a lover of science fiction films and Tamil cinema does not always go hand in hand. In fact, it very rarely does. So, as excited as I was to see the visual excellence of “24”, which was already evident in the trailers and promos itself, I was hesitant about the strength of the story. I had my doubts that Tamil Cinema could delve deep into a scientifically detailed narrative about time travel and come out unscathed. But, I am so very glad to say my hesitance was unnecessary after all… 24 is an extremely imaginative, well crafted and excellently detailed script! And this nerd is so relieved and happy.
There are no loops left un-looped in Surya’s new opus, produced by Surya’s own 2D entertainment. The film is a breath of fresh air for the mega star whose last couple of films have fallen much below my (and most of our) expectations for his talent and persona. His triple-character performances as Athreya, Sethuraman and Mani are outstanding, but when the film was over I found myself applauding more-so for Surya the producer than the actor, for seeing the value in such a well plotted story.
And for that script, which I consider the second leading star of the film after Surya (Samantha and Nithya have to settle for 3rd and 4th here, sorry), we must all tip our hats to scribe and director Vikram Kumar. Kumar has written us a story that doesn’t waste a single scene or piece of information. From a seemingly pointless incident within the first few seconds of the film to a small dialogue about the importance of not littering - almost every single interchange (except for the slightly irritatingly repetitive “I’m basically a watch mechanic” line) and focus of the camera has a specific purpose and contributes beautifully to the justification of the film’s sequence of events. I also think it was extremely intelligent of the film to use the forte of the team’s art direction and cinematography departments to display how the fictional time travel lab and device operated, with sparks of electricity, bursts of color and a million rotating gears, rather than coming up with some filmy gibberish to explain it, and thus diluting the otherwise extremely logical storyline. They knew their strengths.
Of course, the film is at its core a fantasy, based around a magical time travel device that (as far as we know!) is impossible to create, there are many moments you could stop and say “well I doubt in a million years that all these coincidences would line up”, and one needs to go in with a flexible imagination in order to enjoy the novelty of the subject matter. But the fact of the matter is that everything in the story that is presented lines up marvellously. There were times in the theatre I wondered if the film’s team cautiously anticipated the snarky comments of critical viewers like myself, who turned to my friends often saying “oh but did they forget about…” or “yeah but what about…”, and made sure they shut down each of my skeptical doubts one by one with their final output. Kumar has given us a story with many twists of character drama as well as science fiction thrills, and has carefully ensured all twists contribute to the script and come full circle with information presented to you earlier, but which you just may not have noticed.
Despite some lagging in the romantic plotlines in the second half, 24 is a stellar film, and one I will be watching a few more times in theatre. Every trip forward and backward through time we take along with Mani and his magical watch is wisely and entertainingly calibrated, making for one of the tightest scripts I believe Tamil cinema has seen in the past few years.
Written by Dilani Rabindran