Film: "Nerkonda Paarvai" (Tamil); Cast: Ajith Kumar, Vidya Balan, Shraddha Srinath, Andrea Tariang; Director: H. Vinoth; Rating: *** (3 stars)
For long stretches of this remake of "Pink" - a film that in many ways redefined the space and position of women in cinema and society - all I could hear was fans of Ajith expressing their delight. Each time he came on screen they screamed. It was like a secret deal between the star and his fans. I come, you scream. No one in the audience cared about the issues of single women and their vulnerability in the city.
The makers of this remake too seem to think of "Pink" as predominantly a solid opportunity to play up Ajith''s vast stardom. The role of the disoriented lawyer, who fights for the three single girls in the court against powerful predators, was originally played by Amitabh Bachchan. For all his stardom, he stayed in character and never strayed into showing off his star status.
The remake pulls out all stops for Ajith to step up his star power. Hence there is a lengthy 10-15 minute action sequence - not there in the original - where goons accost Ajith in a park. It ends miles away from the park, with Ajith hammering the hell out of dozens of goons with a sledgehammer. Talk about kicking the ball out of the park.
Then, of course, Ajith being Ajith must have a heroine. How can he not? In the original, Mamta Shankar was Amitabh Bachchan''s quietly wise bedridden wife. In the remake there is the very lovely Vidya Balan in a lengthy flashback, singing, dancing, romancing and getting pregnant before dying.
Much as I loved Ms Balan''s serene graceful presence (the baby prothestic was far bigger than the one she wore in "Kahaani"), I found it a distraction.
The lawyer-hero, here named Bharath (clever!) has a personal life. We get that. But that''s not the point. This remake turns "Pink" into a superhero fable. By the time Ajith gets down to saying the most shocking line from "Pink" - "Are you a virgin?" - in the courtroom, it all seems like a pre-planned heist.
The crucial courtroom sequences - where the lawyer takes the pants off the moneyed goons who accuse the tormented girl trio of trafficking, soliciting, blackmail, among others - worked on the basis of restraint in the original. Here, everyone in the courtroom is on a smirking binge, the accused''s lawyer (Rangaraj Pandey) the most.
Recall Piyush Mishra''s wry counter - questioning in the courtroom of "Pink". Recall Kirti Kulhari''s breakdown sequence... I still get goosebumps. Though the three female protagonists in the remake have performed effectively enough, they are no patch on the original trio, not even Andrea Tariang who reprises her role from the original.
"Nerkonda Paarvai" is not a bad remake. It is just not sincere enough. Much of the drama seems copied and pasted from the original, and not very gracefully. Even the actor, who plays landlord of the three girls, was so much more heartwarming in his concern in the original. As for the sexual violators, Angad Bedi and Vijay Verma were sheer repugnant menace in "Pink". Their Tamil counterparts are just snarling, spoilt, bratty, over-privileged boys who never got spanked by their parents.
"Nerkonda Paarvai" doesn''t lack drama. It just lacks the brooding, ominous menace of the original.