Aiyyaa Sachin Kundalkar fiftyfiftyme category: Major
All Rani, all the time. That’s how this film started, and I loved every minute of its opening. There is absolutely no one in Hindi cinema today who can do bubbly like Rani. In this movie, she gets to play a truly manic pixie dream girl, in the best possible way. The dreams involved are hers, not those of some self-obsessed emo whiner boy, and unlike the MPDGs of Hollywood who exist only to further the wish fulfillment of the male lead, this manic dreamer is all about getting her own wishes fulfilled. I defy anyone not to love her performance and her character.
Unfortunately for me, though, there were too many non-essential ingredients thrown into this cocktail. A shady gora drug dealer seemed like a pointless attempt to add heavy drama, but it wasn’t the most unsatisfying part of the film. That distinction goes to the buck-toothed co-worker. It seems to be axiomatic in Indian films that physical deviations from the accepted norm are intrinsically and automatically funny, that it’s not merely OK to laugh at them, it’s required, and that such people don’t have to do or say anything funny to be laughed at, other than appear on screen. Apparently being short, or fat, or lame or with any other sort of physically distinctive characteristic means your only purpose is to be the butt of others’ laughter, and Aiyyaa perpetuates this.
I found this obnoxious tradition irritating in Bodyguard (where it also involved sadistic cruelty inflicted on “Tsunami”) but it was even more irritating in Aiyyaa because it intruded into and detracted from the rampant silliness that is the film’s real strength.
I also found the film’s attempts at a traditional filmi-style love story to be a bit leaden and forced. I don’t watch South Indian films because I can’t stomach their appetite for extreme violence, and so this film was my introduction to Prithviraj. I’m glad it was, for two reasons: One, because I got to saw what all the fuss was about, and boy is there is plenty to fuss about! The other is because he was the one being objectified. From my non-watcher perspective, I get the impression that Southie films may not exactly be bastions of progressive thinking about women’s roles, even measured against Bollywood, so to see a Southie star treated as little more than a slab of truly delicious beefcake was very refreshing. Kudos to Prithviraj too, for being such an enthusiastic participant in his own objectification, as in the delightful dreamum wakeupum
In many ways, that song highlighted everything I loved about Aiyyaa, and the reason I was ultimately a little let down by it. The song is OTT in piling on both sexual imagery and crude stereotypes about South Indian language, but it’s so ridiculously funny that it does not seem offensive. Aiyyaa works brilliantly when it’s dreamum, lags when it’s wakeupum. Definitely worth a watch, this is another one for my “almost, but not quite” files.