There is hardly any challenge in Indianising, or even Tamilising the concept of Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. All you need is a Friday night, a pub, and a talkative friend for the inception of a storyline. For the rest, such as screenplay and characterizations, you need Murugadoss of course. The Batman’s take on the historic Joker will have international patrons for many reasons. Both Batman and the Joker made an intellectual connection with the audience. Their strengths and weaknesses are already known to people that gives leverage to get into the dark story from the word go.
Spyder’s Shiva is a self-appointed vigilante just like the Batman, but unlike the Batman, he isn’t rich and doesn’t have fancy gadgets that he can throw off the hook. He works in an intelligence bureau secretly tapping the phone calls and that gives him access to the technology that Batman has with alerting crime. Shiva’s intelligence is well established all the way from suspecting impending crimes through to figuring out the real killers.
On the other hand, the Joker is an epitome of evil. This evil is not just sinister, but also charming; not just intimidating, but also fascinating. The mushy voice and lip-smacking mannerisms bring more appeal to the already menacing character. It needs a dedicated investment of time to emulate joker’s character topology. It is aptly done through the flashback episode of Bhairavudu, the Indian version. The deconstruction of his psychological journey from his birth in the graveyard through to his childhood as a sadistic personality disorder may look too raw and boring to some audience but it is worth the time spent.
Joker’s capture is one of the glory moments where the Batman overplays him after by a chilling chasing episode. The capture of Bhairavudu was equally interesting albeit unconvincing. Shiva uses live thermal imaging technology, just like the Batman did, to figure out the number of hostages that Bhairavudu has taken in. He then speaks to five different women of different regions of Andhra Pradesh, on the phone, to motivate them to save the hostages. I realized that the scene was conceived well when my wife clapped as a Rayalaseema woman was empowered on phone. The Telangana, Kostha and Hyderabad applauses became even louder striking the right chords with different sections of the audience. Those middle-aged women roll up their sleeves to take up this adventure; they fall and then rise to save the hostages. This total episode looked refreshing and liberating because, for a change, the hero has taken a back-seat and let the women do the job.
After the joker is apprehended, the Batman realizes that nabbing him cannot stop a sequence of destructive events that were already triggered by the joker by manipulating various unsuspecting individuals. Alternatively, the nabbing of Bhairavudu promises a sequence of edge-of-the-seat thrilling events at the beginning, but what follows is a series of misfires. Shiva saves the people from a heavy rolling boulder that’s unleashed onto the streets filled with people. Taking a cue from earlier audience reaction, my 7 years old son clapped. But this time he was all alone in appreciating, as the audience seemed to have rejected the pretty basic CGI.
Joker’s escapades are a class apart, one, for instance, is evident when he blows up the hospital by a remote trigger. He displays finesse, and nonchalance in the act of pressing the remote. On the contrary, Bhairavudu’s histrionics are never caught in the act of performing a crime. While the hospital building detonates supposedly by a time-based detonator, he is only caught grinning. What started as a promising character that could remain in the books for years have stooped down in the climax by an insane fistfight, as the audience squirmed in their seats. All the more, Joker and Bhairavudu are not street fighters; their strength is their intelligence and their nefarious mind. The triumph of the Batman is not judged by the death of the Joker, but by the death of the Joker’s ideology that people can be manipulated for their selfish survival needs. This is translated to lazy sermons given by Shiva that people are united in helping others.
All said and done, more power to you Murugadoss and Mahesh – keep dreaming big, even if it is getting inspired from a benchmarking script, but please uphold the dream through to the execution; and most importantly leave the Tom, Dick, and Gouthams of the world alone to whine.