Gulaebaghavali is encompassing when it comes to reactions — not the reaction of characters on screen, our reactions. It generates an entire gamut of moments. There are the genuine laugh-worthy moments, absolute cringe-worthy ones, moments where you laugh and judge yourself a second later and moments where you judge other people for laughing. The best metaphor to describe Gulaebaghavali is an ECG — amid the drops and flatlines, there are few highs as well.
Gulaebaghavali might have been promoted as a Prabhudheva-Hansika film. But the film truly belongs to Revathy and the ensemble of comedians Yogibabu, Mansoor Ali Khan, Rajendran and ‘Munish’ Ramadoss. Revathy truly ‘drives’ the film as Masha, in an ode to her yesteryear role in Arangetra Velai. One of my favourite roles of Revathy, I was happy to see her play the cheeky, small-time con again on screen. There is also a picture of her from the Arangetra Velai at Revathy’s house which has a car-themed interior (she steals cars for a living). Revathy has quite a few ‘mass’ moments in the film and you can see the actress relishing every moment. Just watch her strum away happily with a shovel. Age hasn’t mellowed her infectious charm at all — she is still the live wire that we know her to be.
But sexism lifts its ugly head up in the film’s treatment of the other woman on screen. In a subplot, Hansika is asked to do a ‘Niravana poojai’ (something even the eighties should be ashamed of), as she interrupts one. A male character nonchalantly looks at Hansika in a short dress and says, “She is already almost there, what more do you want?” As I cringed, I could hear people sniggering around. This isn’t the end. Revathy’s character gets her share too. Several lines euphemisms of ‘how can a woman outwit/out-drive (or do anything better) than a man’ crop up? Ironically, this makes Revathy’s antics even more enjoyable. I don’t know what to make of a movie that had both ends of an argument.
After Revathy’s role, Prabhudheva’s dance moves left me reeling in nostalgia. His skills made the songs more watchable. I quite liked Vivek-Mervin’s peppy music but the songs were a weight that the patchy screenplay couldn’t handle. The film, however, ends on a high with some genuinely funny moments. Look out for Mottai Rajendran’s hilarious sequence with his ‘mother’.
Gulaebaghavali is a mindless caper that relies on its laughs to help the viewer ride through the logic loopholes. Several recent movies have fallen under this new genre of ‘mindless entertainers’. But why does a film have to mindless to be funny? Coming from a history of well-written comedies, is it too much to ask for some logic in our laughs?
This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.