Junga movie review: A gangster satire that digresses more than it entertains

Junga starts on a confident note. The eponymous hero played by Vijay Sethupathi is all set to be killed in a police encoutner. On the way, Junga tries to set the policemen against each other, making easy conversation. The intrigued policemen wonder how he is nonchalant about his impending death and ask him his story. What more of a cue does Junga need to plunge into a flashback? Thus, begins the story of Junga, the stingy don.

Junga, for the most part, is a funny parody of every Don stereotype that exists in Kollywood. A bus conductor who turns into a don because he doesn’t have the money to hire one, Junga learns that his forefathers were also gangsters. On learning that Junga had fought someone, Don Amma and Don Paati narrate the story of Junga’s gangster father and grandfather’s outlandish spending which led to the family losing their ancestral theatre. “Your forefathers were the ones who popularised Tata Sumos in the gangster world. To frigten one person, they used 40 cars with ten thugs each. These thugs scream their lungs out just for effect and your father used to spend Rs 4000 just on Vicks,” narrates Saranya in a hilarious stretch of writing. It’s funny because it’s true. The narrative is not only fresh and funny but also decimates some of the questions we all have harboured about our gangsters. On hearing his lineage, Junga decides to become a don as well and retrieve the theatre. But he won’t fall into the same pit his fathers did. Hence Junga, the stingy gangster. (Stray thought: Kanjan Junga reminds me of Kanchenjunga. Wait, is that how director Gokul stumbled upon the name Junga)

These parts are the funniest portions of the film. There’s a Don Union, headed by a Corleone-like Radha Ravi, who are outraged by the BOGO offers and discount offers of Junga. At this meeting, there’s Bovonto served instead of alcohol. And Vijay Sethupathi being the epitome of stinginess, whisks away some food. Even the Madonna Sebastian story gets a funny finish that simultaneously demolishes a few ‘Don’ stereotypes, further reinforcing Junga’s character.

However, I wish Junga’s producer had been as economical as Junga. The film takes an unnecessary shift to Paris and digresses so much that we almost forget the initial laugh-out-loud moments. While Yogi Babu (in fine form once again) and Vijay Sethupathi do salvage it, but only at points. Junga loses steam when the film begins to take itself seriously and falters into worn out paths.

Sayyeshaa’s designers can be satisfied about their work — after all, the cameras take a patient, unwavering look from her feet to her face every time she changes a costume. But the young lady has several things going for her. She looks good, dances well, and most importantly, lip syncs well. She is more than qualified for what Kollywood’s heroines are expected to do in most films.

Had Junga focused more on the ‘Ezhai, Kanja Don’, it would have been thoroughly enjoyable. Instead it becomes a product of something that the film itself criticises at a point. There’s a Mounam Ragam inspired sequence that ends badly. ‘How can a 20-year old scene work?’ asks Junga. I just wish the second half hadn’t made us ask the same question.

This was first originally published on https://indianexpress.com/. You can find it here.

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