Genius Review: A problematic moral science lesson masquerading as a message film

Kollywood has a tradition where every film that takes on a socially-relevant issue automatically gets the label ‘good cinema’; even when filmmaking aesthetics and political correctness are eschewed in favour of long, preachy monologues and moral lessons. But what happens when a film does more harm than good to the issue it tries to tackle?

Susienthiran’s Genius is one of those stories that sounds good as a one-liner. Think about it — a film that talks about the pressure students face at school, the stress corporate employees face at work and how mental health goes for a toss in our society. Sounds decent enough, right? But the lack of research and plausibility in Genius ensures that we get a product that is horrifying. Dinesh Kumar (Roshan) is diagnosed with schizophrenia at the end of a hypnosis scene that made me feel like I had travelled back to the 90s. After ‘solutions’ such as laughter therapy and yoga fail, a friend to the family actually suggests marriage as a cure! This vacuous option is pursued, sparking a series of increasingly problematic sequences. At the end of this ridiculous stretch, Dinesh is taken to a brothel to ‘cure’ his illness. A brothel where the consumer gets access to extra services such as swimming and therapy. According to Dinesh, women who have premarital sexual relationships are the same as sex workers. He feels there is no difference between both of them. In fact, he says at least he knows what he is getting into with sex workers. No comments.

The crew probably thought they were making a ‘progressive’ film with liberal ideas. But what transpires on screen is a painful mish-mash of several incoherent threads. It is ironic that in the time of #MeToo, we get a courtroom joke where a constable unnecessarily clutches the hand of an uninvolved typist, to demonstrate how he handled a case. Sigh.

The caricaturish performances don’t help the cause either. Susienthiran, who probably realised that his lead has precisely two expressions in his repertoire, has half of the film unfold in flashbacks. But his writing is paper-thin as well, so there’s no saving grace. With three more films in hand, it looks like Susienthiran is making films out of every idea that he gets. It is tough to imagine this is the same man behind films such as Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu. Pandiya Naadu and Jeeva. One can say the same about Yuvan Shankar Raja, who comes up with an equally forgettable soundtrack. In fact, if there is anyone who deserves a shout-out, it is the editor and the designer. Far more effort seems to have gone into the poster and trailer than the film itself.

This was originally written for The New Indian Express. You can find it here.

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