The idea that comedy and religion can mix is sometimes greeted with scepticism, especially by the devout.
In truth, comedy films about religion can work perfectly well. Just take a gander at Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” for example. As long as the film is not mean-spirited and has something meaningful to impart to audiences, a religious comedy film can be an absolute treat to watch.
And that is exactly what Tamil director Karthik Yogi’s latest film, “Vadakkupatti Ramasamy” aims for as it takes a few jabs at the expense of religious dogmatists.
The film follows the titular Ramasamy (Santhanam), a resident of a Tamil Nadu village named Vadakkupatti.
While he has little reason to believe in the local deity Kannatha, he believes wholeheartedly in the power of the rupee.
And as the temple caretaker, he leverages his position to financially benefit himself through the most devious of schemes.
Unfortunately for him, when he declines to collaborate on a fraudulent scheme with revenue collector Kathiresan (Tamizh), things immediately take a turn for the worse.
The temple is shut down after a fight breaks out there and Ramasamy is left high and dry with no means to continue scamming the villagers.
That is, until he formulates a plan to spread Madras Eye aka conjunctivitis through the village and subsequently claim Kannatha is angered by the temple closure.
Cue the comedic shenanigans as Ramasamy’s web of lies grows bigger and bigger, with the risk of exposure growing.
Does Ramasamy get away with his scheme? Will the vengeful Kathiresan spoil it all? Well, that’s one reason for you to catch this film now.
For folks who fear that the film may be disparaging of the Hindu faith, fear not as the film tackles its themes quite tactfully.
It is similar in regard to the aforementioned “Life of Brian”, where the worshipped deities are portrayed respectfully.
However, it declares open season on so-called holy men like Ramasamy, who is clearly a caricature of actual fraudsters who abuse religion for financial profit.
In the film, he pulls off incredulous schemes like creating a monopoly on flower garlands and offering religious rituals for a price.
One would think such a depiction to be over-the-top, but given the excesses of real-life religious figures, Ramasamy is rather tame by comparison.
In addition to critiquing these fraudsters, the film also points out that they get away with what they do because of how dogmatic people can be.
There is a point in the film where Kayalvizhi (Megha Akash), a military doctor, figures out what Ramasamy is up to and spills the beans to the village.
Instead of waking up to the truth, the villagers accuse her of disrespecting their faith. They also refuse to use the prescribed eye drops for fear it will anger their goddess further. Life is stranger than fiction, sometimes.
But enough on the social themes. A good comedy should elicit some laughter from the audience; so, does “Vadakkupatti Ramasamy” deliver on humour?
While not every joke lands and some are in fact drawn out, others are pretty well-executed and will leave the audience in stitches.
It certainly helps that a good number of characters have certain quirks that lead to comedic moments with other characters.
One such character has to be Major Chandrakanth (Nizhalgal Ravi), a military officer who clearly has a few screws loose.
From forcing a poor soldier to act as a human doorbell to getting stuck in his own minefield, he as well as other characters, deliver quite a few comedic moments.
That said, does “Vadakkupatti Ramasamy” do anything particularly innovative? Unfortunately, that is probably not the case.
There are quite a number of clichés, and plot twists are few and far between. That said, a well-executed clichéd movie is still entertaining in its own right.
So, if you wish to have a good laugh while learning a lesson or two about true faith, maybe give this film a watch and see if it is the right thing for you.
‘Vadakkupatti Ramasamy’ is currently playing in theatres nationwide.