Katthi Vs Tropic Thunder…Which Is The Real Spoof On The Audience?
So last weekend I spent watching two movies back to back- the Tamil film kathhi starring actor Vijay and the English film Tropic Thunder starring Ben stiller. The reason I watched them one after the other immediately is because they both run on a single topic- the second one being a spoof on the first. And the theme if you haven’t guessed it by now is “action stars Oscar aspirations”. Now I know that’s a mouthful but nevertheless that’s the theme of this post. Now we all know – in fact its never been a secret – that be it Hollywood, Bollywood or Kollywood- some big stars – action stars especially often have unfulfilled fantasies of turning thespians and giving in the performance of their lives- acting chops wise- to earn the adulation of carping critics and be recognized winners of the best actor awards rather than the most popular actor awards. This fever (or madness) more or less affects almost all big stars at one time or the other in their career- be it Schwarzenegger with his Kindergarten Cop, Stallone with any of his non-Rocky movies, Statham with his non-Transporter movies and even Jackie Chan with the Jaden smith starring Karate Kid.
What these stars seem not to realize is that the audiences come to watch their films precisely because they have a well defined sensibility of giving what the audience wants and not to watch pure acting or method acting or the ten hankies were drenched with tears kinda acting. And when the star becomes too trippy for his own good and forgets the audience and decides to satisfy only his critics he ends up doing a disaster movie of epic proportions which falls flat between two stools satisfying neither – the audience nor the critics. After all if the star had movable facial muscles he wouldn’t be doing slam-bang action movies right from the start of his career would he? Audiences know the stars limits – their acting talents or lack thereof and still turn up to watch their movies for other things and so it’s quite tragic when the stars themselves don’t know their limitations or forget it in their ego-filled trips and choose awards over their audiences.
This aspect of the ego-trips stars take to end up in disaster is showcased in one of the greatest spoof-movies Hollywood made- Tropic Thunder where Ben Stiller spoofs this Oscar mania in a movie-within- a movie called “Simple Jack” wherein he tries to show off his acting abilities to get that elusive Oscar award which is nevertheless denied to him for being , wait for it, too realistic a portrayal of retard…and as Robert Downey Jr advises him in a pivotal scene in the movie- never go full retard man, they don’t like it- which advice is apt for all these action stars- never go full actor man- they don’t like it. This extreme limits to which actors go to be recognized by critics and peers as a, well an “actor” in inverted caps is what lifts Tropic Thunder from your average spoof movie into far higher realms. Every time you watch the film you get to see layers and layers peeled off the hides of action stars who want “respectablity”. The movie ends very poignantly with a message- “know yourself man, know who you are and stay true to yourself”. Which advice is eminently applicable to actor vijay and director murugadoss and the entire katthi team.
When you go to watch a vijay movie you have certain expectations- the bare basic expectation of being entertained for the next two hours being the most primary one. But with Katthi the actor or maybe the director has forgotten this basic commandment and moved into award territory. They have taken a worthwhile issue and using a faulty screenplay which sags and drags for a large part of the movie and a wholly cinematic ending involving the hero fighting 50 bad guys etc have managed to shake the audience faith in the vijay “genre” formula. I am not saying that vijay shoudnt act in such films- after all as an individual its his right to decide the movies he is gonna make but as a member of the pay for tickets and watch in theatre public, I for one will hesitate to watch a vijay movie in the future without reading all the reviews- because now I know that it may or not be a typical vijay movie and can even be a preachy- social issues-artsy movie starring vijay as one of the characters.
This dimnishing of the stars “star valsue” for want of a better term is what saddens me as a vijay fan and and as a fan of potboiler mass masala movies. If even vijay can compromise for the critics sake what hope is there for the average movie fan like me who expects and demands a non-intellectual “no-issues only entertainment” movie with the mandatory 3 duets and 4 fights screenplay? Or maybe I should just stick to watching Telugu movies henceforth- at least Mahesh Babu and Pawan Kalyan will never betray their fans like this. Or wait for the next Ben Stiller movie with bated breath – for there’s an actor who knows himself.