There’s evil, there’s necessary evil, and then there’s this movie. Mahabalipuram is 111 minutes long, which is twice as long as it takes to drive there from Chennai. If you have to choose between the drive and the movie, take the drive. You won’t regret it.
Right from the start, the first thing to upset the audience is the bad acting and poor dubbing. Every so often, it feels like watching a dubbed Chinese Kung Fu caper – the lips don’t match the words coming out of them. It must have taken some serious balls to shoot close-up shots which serve as evidence for the lazy dubbing job. This flick has been shot entirely like a rookie short film, with item numbers. It appears as if the cast was made to watch and learn from online acting tutorials, while shooting on location. The women in the film (non-White) look like they’ve turned up at a friend’s reception. Every second line is accompanied by a giggle, sniffle, or whine, and this is supposed to make us like them. Their makeup is overdone and can be seen from miles away, in Eastman colour. Veteran actor Sathyaraj deserves a special mention here: he has lent his voice as narrator. He speaks a total number of ten sentences.
The main characters are… not important. There is nothing memorable about them, and you won’t recollect their names less than fifteen minutes into the movie. The movie begins with a man getting hanged. As the audience, you are bound to be curious, and the director makes sure you regret every ounce of curiosity you possess. The plot is so convoluted, it gives Game of Thrones a run for its money. There’s politics, betrayal, multiple murders, passion, love, and White women.
There are some unintentionally hilarious instances in the movie that are a result of plain dumbness. For example, when the protagonists want to enjoy a group session of porn, they go to YouTube. According to the timeline of the flashback, nobody has smartphones. Yet, when it comes to watching porn on YouTube, they magically acquire a Wi-Fi connection. Then there’s the scene where man slips off a first floor balcony that’s not more than fifteen feet high, lands on his head, and dies. His bleeding carcass is found more than ten feet away from where he should have landed. I am yet to find an engineering student who can explain the science of that.
Mahabalipuram both physically and mentally violates you. The first half of the movie will have you crying, because you can’t take it and just want to go home, curl up in a corner, and try to forget you ever watched this movie. In the intermission, the optimist inside of you will want to give the film a chance. Who knows, maybe it will get better in the second half, right? Wrong. By the end of the movie, you will be rolling in laughter because you have been driven out of your mind. The only way this movie can be enjoyed to the fullest is if you’re high, drunk, or both. This movie is both the definition as well as reason for the hashtag whatisthisidonteven.